Empower yourself: learn how to prevent, manage and defuse aggressive or violent behaviour

Free workshop offers practical tips to reduce your risk of workplace violence

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Anyone can become aggressive given the right circumstances. The first step in decreasing workplace violence is to understand and recognize its existence. When you sense a situation is risky, trust your intuition.

These are thoughts explored in Prevention is 9/10's of the Law: Practical Tools for the Prevention and Management of Aggression and Violence in the Workplace.

If you've ever been curious about how to adopt a safety conscious lifestyle or how you may contribute to escalating or diffusing an awkward situation, wonder no more. You have a larger role to play in preventing and reducing your risk of workplace violence than you may have previously thought.

Spend a day learning the signs of aggressive behaviour and how to proactively manage situations and ensure your safety. Sponsored by the Nursing Safety and Security Fund, this training is available for all staff working in the Winnipeg Health Region at no cost. The course was initially launched in 2005 after the Worklife Task Force (established in 2000 to address nursing issues in Manitoba) identified safety and security as two key issues. Since then the workshop and an accompanying workbook have been updated with new learning materials.

You'll also learn about personal space. How much do you need? How much does the person you're communicating with need? What's striking distance, and why should you stay out of it?

And what happens if someone grabs your wrist, pulls your hair or chokes you? You may be surprised at how effective methods can be to get out of these scenarios.

While you'll gain the tools to be proactive about safety and reduce your risk of workplace violence through your words and actions, you'll also learn how important it is to report workplace violence when it occurs. Not reporting it is like condoning it, according to presenter Sharon Boychuk, a Nurse Educator at Health Sciences Centre.

People may choose not to report workplace violence for any number of reasons: they may not feel things will change, they may feel that nothing will be done so there's no point, or they think that they will be asked what they did to bring that situation on. Some staff may also wonder why there seems to be different rules for people in our care and visitors to our facility.

"What we've seen in health care is that people are just not being very nice to each other. Some of that is related to the environment - it's very stressful and highly charged due to the nature of the service being provided. Dealing with people and families that are stressed and worried sometimes brings itself forward through behaviour that is less than respectful," says John Van Massenhoven, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for the Region. "There has to be some recognition that that's a reality within health care, but we can't expect our staff to take the brunt of that."

Health care workers need, and deserve to be, safe at work. Health care workers are already at higher risk for violence given the dynamics of the work they do. Every day they approach vulnerable people who are in pain or are ill, perhaps on medication and often clients, residents or patients have cognitive impairments or mental health concerns. Family or loved ones can also be stressed. The very nature of a facility can create its own level of trauma or anxiety, depending on the situation.

"Every individual is different. What works for one won't work for another; what worked in the morning might not work in the afternoon," says Boychuk of being adaptable and appropriately responding to a situation. "Even if we do everything right, staff may still be faced with challenges of aggressive and violent behaviour. Always err on the side of caution. Your safety is very important."

Putting yourself at risk of physical or emotional harm is not an expectation of your job. In fact, feeling unsafe at work can lead to increased stress and illness.

To find out what you can do to increase your self confidence and the ability to handle virtually any situation, block off a day to take Prevention is 9/10 of the Law. Click here for course dates and to sign up.

And what about those days when it's just been one stressful thing after another? Boychuk says: "Never underestimate the power of a deep breath."

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