PeaceHealth sees reduction in staff injuries from patients with cognitive disabilities

March 5, 2020

Mullane Harrington, a clinical nurse educator at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, has spent the last three years championing and developing a new training program to care for patients with cognitive impairments or disabilities. Harrington observed that industry standard approaches to workplace violence reduction relied on verbal de-escalation. However, this approach is not effective for patients with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease, who often can’t communicate verbally. Thus, PeaceHealth’s Advanced Care of Patients with Cognitive Impairment program was developed to provide health care workers with specialized training to decrease patient assaults on health care workers and ensure that patients with cognitive disabilities receive compassionate, effective care.

The four-hour training program adapts long-term care best practices to address violent behavior while providing acute care. Participating staff receive education and empathy-based strategies to prevent escalation through diversional activities and meeting the specific needs of patients with cognitive impairments.

As a result, according to incident reviews before and after staff training, PeaceHealth has seen a 97 percent reduction in injuries to trained staff from patients with cognitive impairments. Thirty-five percent of acute staff have received training so far. To learn more about the Advanced Care of Patients with Cognitive Impairment program and what the implementation process looks like, check out American Nurse’s coverage of PeaceHealth’s work.


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