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Posted: October 24, 2022

Health services protection officers to be hired in B.C.

The B.C. government this morning announced it is taking steps to build safer workplaces for health-care workers and patients by introducing a new security model across all health authorities.

Included in that model is the hiring of more protection services employees and expanding funding to SWITCH BC, a new organization focused on addressing workplace safety.

About 320 in-house protection services officers and 14 violence prevention leads will be hired and will help create a safer environment for staff and patients, including eventually at East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

“These actions will help ensure all health-care employees have safe and healthy workplaces, and that the patients who count on them are accessing care in a safe environment. Ensuring our health-care facilities are free of violence will not only help us recruit and retain health-care workers, but it will also improve patient care and continuity,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

“Establishing SWITCH BC furthered our commitment to create safe and welcoming workplaces for our health-care employees, and this latest action empowers security personnel to support these efforts.”

The province is providing health authorities with funding to establish a relational security model in 26 health-care settings and hire staff to support it. The new model ensures all security personnel have an acute awareness of patients and their surroundings, as well as how to anticipate, de-escalate and ultimately prevent aggression. It is based on trauma-informed practice, which integrates knowledge of how people are affected by trauma into procedures, practices and services to create a safer environment for staff and patients, a Ministry of Health media release outlined.

All protection services personnel will receive training in workplace violence prevention, mental health and advanced customer service. They will also receive trauma-informed practice training to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and language to be able to apply a trauma-informed lens to interactions with patients, families, clients and colleagues.

Government is also providing $2 million to SWITCH BC (Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Healthcare) to address workplace safety. This is in addition to funding of $8.5 million over three years announced in 2019 to establish the organization.

The agreement for a new agency was reached through public-sector collective bargaining and included the participation of all health-sector bargaining associations, the Doctors of BC, the Health Employers Association of British Columbia and the Ministry of Health.

SWITCH BC is leading the enhancement and strengthening of the Provincial Violence Prevention Curriculum, which will incorporate the trauma-informed practice principles that are embedded within the relational security model, the ministry said.

This will ensure all health-care workers and medical staff receive standard education in violence mitigation and de-escalation. SWITCH BC will engage with health-care teams to hear their ideas on improving health and safety in their workplaces.

“Everyone working in health care has the right to be safe and healthy, to thrive on the job and to return home safely to family and friends. That’s why we are inviting everyone working in health care to share their experiences as we refresh violence prevention training. This will help shape an inclusive, diverse and trauma-informed program that better meets the needs of health-care teams now and into the future,” said Victoria Schmid, CEO, SWITCH BC.

Kane Tse, president, Health Services Association added, “Specialized health professionals on the front lines of care delivery in B.C. have faced increased hostility since the pandemic, and incidents of workplace violence are pushing these already exhausted staff past the breaking point. We can’t afford to lose any of them. We welcome today’s announcement for recognizing and responding to the importance of workplace violence, providing a significant update on the violence prevention curriculum, and increasing efforts to strengthen protections for the specialized health professionals who protect us all, every day.

“We look forward to working with the government to meet the challenge of addressing the deeper issues, which continue to drive aggression and violence in the health-care system.”

Aman Grewal, president, BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) noted, “After years of advocating for increased safety for nurses, BCNU welcomes this announcement and considers it a positive step toward addressing the increased violence we are seeing in the health-care system. Between now and the fall of 2023, we fully expect to be involved in the implementation of these security measures and look forward to working together with the government to improve conditions for nurses, patients and all health-care workers.”

Facts about workplace violence, Switch BC

* Workplace violence is defined as incidents where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health.

* For nurses and health-care assistants (both predominantly female workforces), violence was the second most common cause of time loss claims between 2015 and 2019, the first being overexertion.

* The relational security model is already in several health-care facilities in Island Health and focuses on integrating three key security aspects, including:
* the knowledge of patients, the environment and appropriate responses;

* physical security, such as personal alarms, fences, and secure rooms; and

* procedural security, which are policies to maintain safety.

* Relational security aligns with best practices in trauma-informed practice.

* Trauma is often closely tied to substance use, mental illness, stigma, health-care access barriers and other challenges.

* Trauma-informed practice involves recognizing this link and making sure people feel safe and are not retraumatized or triggered by their care.

* When people feel safe, they are far less likely to behave aggressively.

* SWITCH BC is a new organization focused on the health, safety and well-being of more than 300,000 people who work in health care.

e-KNOW file photo


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