A registered nurse and a former security officer have teamed up to develop a new occupational health and safety program for Saskatoon Health Region that aims to educate workers on preventing workplace violence.

Workplace Assessment and Violence Education (WAVE) is the result of collaboration between two veteran health-care employees: Anne Parker, a critical care nurse and clinical nurse educator, and Tony Elliott, former manager of security services and now safety consultant for the Health Region. With a combined experience of 55 years in their respective fields, Parker and Elliott spent more than a year designing a “stay safe 24/7” program that is 90 per cent preventative and 10 per cent reactive.

The development of the WAVE program is in line with the Region’s commitment to prevent workplace injuries. In 2010, the Health Region signed a provincial charter committing to Mission Zero — with the goal of having zero workplace injuries by March 31, 2017. icon_wave

In developing WAVE, Parker drew on her experience as a nurse to describe health-care situations where employees need hands-on, practical, violence prevention techniques. For each clinical situation she cited, Elliott drew on his security training background to design methods to keep employees safe without hurting the patients, family members and/or colleagues.

Parker estimates that most nurses during their careers will have encountered a violent episode, whether physical or verbal. She has been witness to or involved with spitting, hair pulling, pinching, grabbing and kicking in her work environment. Elliott, on the other hand, has faced patients or family members with guns, knives and numerous other makeshift weapons. They both know how fast tensions can build.

Health-care employees work with patients and their families who may be confused, frightened, angry or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Recognizing the danger signs when approaching a patient is critical to employee safety.

Elliott says the WAVE training is very basic, “We tell you what could happen, what are the possible signs, and practice getting out of that situation by not even getting into it.”

WAVE training involves up to eight hours of theory, role-playing, acting out scenarios and practicing self-defence moves. Using the traffic light concept, they teach green, yellow and red zones for determining safe distance strategies and how to read facial, physical or verbal cues for warning signs of possible violence occurring.

During the training session employees are taught to evaluate what state the patient is in, what caused it or what may have triggered it. They learn to assess quickly, defend themselves and get help as fast as possible. The course is tailored to deal with real life clinical situations.

More than 3,000 Health Region employees have completed WAVE training. Due to the high demand for violence prevention training within the Health Region, Parker and Elliott are currently developing a program to train more trainers.