Hospital staff trained to handle difficult patients

Public hospitals say that staff are taught how to deal with difficult situations involving patients, including when to call for backup.

At the National University Hospital (NUH), there were 155 reported cases of abuse last year, down from 162 the year before.

Said an NUH spokesman: "We understand that patients can get abusive because they are unwell and some may display different behaviour because of their illness.

"Family members may be anxious for their loved ones.

"However, we do not tolerate abuses against our staff and will take action to protect them."

At Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), there are surveillance cameras and alarm buttons to call for security guards if needed.

Said a TTSH spokesman: "In a potentially difficult situation, our staff are trained to try and understand the cause of any aggression.

"This allows them to respond more appropriately."

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital has seen an increase in the number of reported abuse cases, from 25 in 2011 to 41 last year. However, a hospital spokesman added that these numbers are "very much under-reported". He said: "On a daily basis, many of our healthcare workers are subjected to disrespectful and unkind treatment by the public that goes unrecorded."

He added that front-line staff are trained to manage abusive behaviour, including when to escalate the matter to their supervisors or rope in other colleagues for help.

Nanyang and Ngee Ann polytechnics, which offer nursing diplomas, said students are taught to handle such difficult patients through role play in class. Hospital staff also guide them during attachments.

A Nanyang Polytechnic spokesman said: "They are taught how to diffuse the situation by first trying to understand the patients' concerns." A Ngee Ann Polytechnic spokesman added: "In recent years, we have heightened students' awareness on how to deal with stressful situations at the workplace, such as bullying behaviour, sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse from patients."

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hospital staff trained to handle difficult patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe