Innovative training designed to keep teams SAFER launches in PES

February 23, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

Approximately a 3-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Last month, Michigan Medicine Security launched the Situational Awareness for Emergency Response (SAFER) training in partnership with Psychiatric Emergency Services.
  • The training focuses on situational awareness, proxemics and de-escalation techniques to help teams prevent, respond and stay safe in emergency situations.
  • The SAFER training will soon be available to other units and departments, and will be tailored to meet the specific needs of each team.

In 2019, team members from Michigan Medicine Security and Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) began working together to develop a training that would help faculty and staff stay safe in an environment where patient behavior is often unpredictable and situations can escalate quickly, putting patients and employees at risk for harm.

After a long pause in planning due to COVID-19 – and with heightened mental health challenges due to the pandemic and other stressors – the two teams were more than ready to launch the Situational Awareness for Emergency Response, or SAFER, training for PES faculty and staff last month.

Rising tensions

In the last four years, incidents of workplace violence against employees have risen 33% at Michigan Medicine. And, in PES, the likelihood for patient agitation and violent behavior is extraordinarily high.

“In PES, we see significantly more violent issues than are experienced in other parts of the health system,” said Victor Hong, M.D., PES medical director.

“We have a unique patient population,” said Hong, “and it takes a special type of person to work here. Our team members intentionally put themselves in harm’s way to help people.”

“We’ve seen some employees leave the unit out of fear, but we have surprisingly little turnover,” said Hong, whose team includes staff who have been on the unit for decades.

However, Hong said safety is a top concern for all faculty and staff on the unit.

“We knew from the employee engagement survey that our team members didn’t feel safe at work,” he said. “We wanted to alleviate those fears by helping them feel empowered and prepared.”

Reducing anxiety and risk with tailored training

DPSS Deputy Director and Michigan Medicine Security Director Brian Uridge, M.P.A., C.P.P., CHPA, C.T.M., is adamant in his belief that team members should not only be safe but also feel safe. The SAFER training is designed with both of those goals in mind.

Soon to be offered in other areas, the SAFER training focuses on three key elements – situational awareness, the use of proxemics or body positioning, and de-escalation techniques. Unique to this training is the fact that it is tailored to meet the specific needs of the team being trained.

Each custom session includes classroom learning and scenario-based skills training with the opportunity to use the skills being taught. Uridge explained to PES staff that the body will not go where the mind has not been, highlighting the importance of not only learning but also practicing emergency response skills.

“For the PES training, we worked with nurse educators from that unit and built a program using critical incidents that have happened there to train the staff,” said Uridge.

Each PES session included videos of actual incidents that occurred on the unit, allowing team members to evaluate events and learn techniques to increase safety in future situations.

Partnering for safety and success

“The beauty of this program is that it’s not a training specifically developed by Security,” said Uridge. “We took clinical staff that work on the front line, we took security, we took law enforcement officers, and we combined the expertise from all three disciplines and created this training.”

In addition to including multiple disciplines in the development of the training, another important focus of the SAFER program is giving team members from different disciplines the opportunity to learn and practice skills, together.

For the PES training, a mix of nurses, physicians, advanced practice providers, social workers, patient techs, unit clerks and administrators attended each session together.

“The response to the PES training was incredibly positive,” said Uridge. “We wanted to launch the SAFER program with this unit because of the high-risk nature of their work.

“We look forward to partnering with other units and departments across the health system,” Uridge said. “We want to empower our teams with knowledge, strategies and skills designed to help them prevent, respond and stay safe in emergency situations.”