Wound Care Articles and Insights
July 14, 2022

Simple Strategies to Stay Safe with Aggressive Patients

Kallie Christensen

Aggressive outbursts from patients are rapidly plaguing the healthcare industry. Leaving clinical workers vulnerable to the wrath pressed upon them by emotionally charged patients. Where most clinicians are prepared to handle a patient that fails to comply with a treatment plan, they need to be just as prepared for noncompliance to transition into something unruly and potentially volatile.  

In a recent study administered by Wound Care Advantage’s Learning & Development department, they found that 35% of the clinicians who participated stated that non-compliant patients are projecting outward anger and frustration, and another 35% said patients are expressing external anxiety and depressed behaviors. 

Although there are many different psychological reactions that non-compliant patients can exhibit, Aggression and Anxiety are unpredictable in how turbulent the emotion can become. And both sets of behavioral patterns in patients are not becoming a serious problem in health care centers, they already are a severe problem. Looking at how to combat this, keeping those who work in a health care setting safe needs to be the primary focus. 

While there is no easy solution as to how to handle patient outbursts during these heightened emotional times, the following simple steps are encouraged to all clinicians to promote safety and awareness in their clinic; 

  1. Know Your Environment
  • Be aware of where you are in your clinic and where all emergency exits are located. Always double-check that each and every exterior door is secured and locked at all times. 
  1. Make Space
  • Make sure to always put space between yourself and the patient when possible when in the exam room alone. It’s important to make the patient feel that you respect their personal space, as much as you respect your own. 
  1. The Buddy System 
  • If a patient has already shown signs of aggression or anxiety, ensure that all clinicians work as a team, ensuring that no one person is left one on one for too long with the patient. 
  1. Practice Crisis Prevention
  • Crisis Prevention techniques may not resolve all of the issues, but understanding how to de-escalate a patient can prevent an adverse outcome. Some of these approaches include; Displaying Empathy, Setting Boundaries, Allowing decision time for the other person, and using positive communication. Learn more about Crisis Prevention at  
  1. Exercise Self-Care
  • Make sure to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Working in healthcare can be demanding on both, and it’s essential to make sure we’re caring for ourselves as well. This includes reaching out to your employer about what mental health resources are available to you through your benefits. 

Along with the individual steps one can take to remain safe and aware, there are things centers can do as a team to create an environment of safety and healing. The first recommendation is to verify that all evacuation and emergency protocols are up to date and well drilled. This should include that all team members have a copy of the evacuation routes within the center, and a sheet of emergency protocols that list the corresponding announcement codes. Being prepared to handle any emergency, even the non-medical ones, is essential to the well-being of all who work in the health care center. 

The second recommendation that a center can do as a group is to create a mental health wellness team. This team would be responsible for understanding the resources available for their teammates and how to provide them. They would also check in on their teammates regularly to ensure that they are receiving the support they need to remain healthy, both mentally and physically. 

Following the above steps and suggestions can help all health care centers work towards a safe environment for all inside. However, each health care center should have an individualized safety and emergency protocol that is specific to their facility and is frequently drilled. Keeping health care workers safe and prepared for any type of patient outburst in this tension-fueled world is the primary goal.

Read Part 2: Five Tips for Managing Non-Compliant Patients

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