PEF Downstate nurse trains staff on response methods for combative patients
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Among the many qualities PEF members display such as dedication to their jobs and creating new initiatives to benefit their agency or department, there are some whose excellent work skills are recognized by their peers and management.
Joan Rosegreen, the council leader at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said she is proud of all the fine work accomplished by PEF Division 198 members.
“I would like to introduce one medical surgical nurse, Michelle Thomas, to all PEF members as she has set a standard of true professionalism and her efforts have been an asset to SUNY Downstate,” Rosegreen said. “She was selected to train the entire hospital staff on how to detect and respond to crisis situations.”
Thomas, also a charge nurse who supervises nurses, nurse’s aides and auxiliary staff on a 29-bed unit, said she was asked and agreed to do the crisis situation training.
“First, I took the training at Bellevue Hospital where it was conducted by staff at the state Office of Mental Health (OMH). The goal was to teach and empower our staff with tools and skills as to how to deal with people who are aggressive or combative, and the best way to de-escalate a situation before it reaches a point where restraints or seclusion is required,” Thomas said. “That way we can better assist our clients through early recognition and proper intervention.”
Thomas said part of the training involves being aware of cues, such as when a client who may initially appear passive begins to show signs of a classic anger disorder that may have been triggered by a comment, question, rejection or stressful event.
“It is important for us to develop a rapport with clients, so the clients can develop trust and that allows them to be more cooperative. When that happens, they can provide us with more information so we are better equipped to assist them,” Thomas said.
The Downstate training began last April, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you can find Thomas sharing the information with co-workers who must attend the two-day crisis situation training.
“We no longer have a psychiatric unit, but we occasionally receive clients who are combative. Because we are credentialed to use restraints and seclusion, the training is one of the OMH mandates,” Thomas said.
One of the things Thomas enjoys most about her work is the satisfaction she feels after a client is treated. She described it as an “unexplainable, but very good feeling.”
“When a client is about to leave and you get thanked, then you get that smile. It is also rewarding to work with your colleagues. It’s important to be a team and have a sense of togetherness especially when we are faced with a difficult task. When you find yourself overwhelmed on the unit, working together makes you stronger and helps you to provide more efficient care. I also enjoy the opportunities when I can be a teacher or mentor, rather than to critique someone in a negative way,” Thomas said.
Her advice to others is to learn from your successes and mistakes, recognize where you are now, and to use the past as a springboard for the future.