“I didn’t come to work for this” – Leading a team to confront workplace safety in a climate of increasing Emergency Department violence and aggression

Ms Susan  Harding1
1Royal Melbourne Hospital – City Campus, Parkville, Australia

Introduction: The Royal Melbourne Hospital is a quaternary referral centre and state wide trauma service in inner city Melbourne.  Of our 78, 000 presentations the Emergency Department cares for a complex case mix of patients including a large percentage of trauma, mental health, drug and alcohol related presentations.  The Organisational vison is to be the First in Care, Research and Learning and to be an employer of choice but we needed to look at the barriers challenging this.
Objective: In a climate of increasing hospital violence and aggression the aim was to develop an inter-disciplinary team to improve workplace safety. By listening to the lived experience of staff, we harnessed the ‘grass roots’ and gave an opportunity for them to contribute to solutions in addressing the unpredictable behaviours, aggression and OH&S risks that existed in the workplace.

Programme: The following strategies were introduced in an effort to change workplace culture this included

–              Introduction of ED working groups (Staff Wellbeing, Mental Health, Police Reporting, Closing the Loop)

–              Security safety huddles each shift

–              Implementation of a `Tap Out’ process

–              Formalizing a Police Reporting process

–              Development of an Occupational Violence video

–              Letters of Accountability

Outcomes: The importance of valuing staff is such an integral part of organisational success. You cannot be the “First in Care” without engaging the people who provide that care. Creating a transparent and supportive environment where safety is part of core business is such an important message to continue to drive. Preliminary feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from all staff and Victoria Police, staff report feeling safer now with knowledge that the organisation prioritises their safety and well -being. Our OVA video sparked national interest and support in flying the flag in raising awareness for such an important topic.

Susan Harding is a veteran of the Health service industry having provided 25 years as an Emergency Nurse and more recently in a Nursing management role leading over 300 staff members in a fast paced, high acuity and frequently over-flowing Emergency Department.  Whilst in this role Susan has focused on improving the retention of staff by implementing strong succession plans with a goal of achieving continual growth and innovation in nursing practices. Despite Susan’s considerable experience and impressive credentials, including various hospital commendations as a result of her staff’s endorsements, it is Susan’s humble nature and emphasis on creating an environment of universal respect towards and between her staff that ensures an open line of communication, a safe place for staff to work and patients to receive the best possible care.’