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How to Protect Your Staff, Patients and Yourself from a Volatile Patient

“First, do no harm,” is a phrase often erroneously attributed to the Hippocratic Oath. A noble commitment stemming from good intentions, we’d all like to believe it’s the foremost concern in every doctor’s office. However, with tales of workplace violence at the forefront of many news stories today, knowing how to protect your staff, patients and yourself from a volatile patient could well save lives (and your practice) during a risky and undesirable situation. This is when planning, staff training and medical professional liability insurance come into play.

While incidences of this nature are far from prevalent, there are unstable individuals walking around out there, one of whom could find their way into your office.



Here’s what to do to protect those for whom you are responsible.

Develop and Rehearse an Evacuation Plan

Yes, your staff is likely to scoff at the idea when you introduce it, but if the day ever comes when you need to get everyone out of the office fast, their opinions will change. The key goals of the plan should be to get everyone out of the office quickly, orderly and safely—while phoning the authorities for assistance. If a security company isn’t monitoring your office, get an account with a panic button feature.

Control Access to Your Examining Room(s)

Security cameras should be placed where they can get a clear view of the face of every person entering the waiting room. Patients should always need an appointment to get beyond the waiting room, and should be escorted through a locked door leading to the examining room(s). This gives your staff an opportunity to assess their demeanor in a public setting.

Check on Each Other

Train staff members to knock gently on the examining room door with “a quick question” from time to time—particularly if a patient seems distraught or stressed—just to make sure is all well. In this vein, never accept after hours appointments in which you’ll be in the office alone with a patient and always position patients in the examining room so you are between them and the door.

Keep Tools Under Lock & Key

Keep syringes, scalpels and other utensils capable of being weaponized in locked drawers and relock them immediately upon retrieving an item.

Provide Self Defense Training

Basic self-defense techniques such as how to escape an assailant’s grip, how to avoid lunges and how to defend against an attacker should be part of the training for everyone in your office.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use any of these tips in an emergency situation. However, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to how to protect your staff, patients and yourself from a volatile patient, preparing in advance will make a significant difference in the outcome should the situation ever arise.

And, if it ever does become necessary, your medical professional liability insurance can defend you against financial damages from the inevitable claim the assailant files. CoverHound can help you get the right policy at favorable rates. Compare plans today!

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