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Improving safety in community emergency departments

ED pic

Kristin MacNeil

Anything can happen while working in an emergency department (ED).

For instance, staff working Oct. 3, 2016 at Soldiers Memorial Hospital (SMH) in Middleton faced the unexpected when an armed man entered the ED. Their workplace safety procedures have since changed forever.

Over the past year, Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) focused heavily on creating safe environments and new safety protocols for EDs across the province, starting with SMH. The ED there hired an extra security guard, conducted courses on non-violent crisis intervention, introduced protocols to limit access to the department in case of an emergency, and developed plans for renovation to better secure the department.

Kim Dondale, front line nurse at SMH, believes society is changing, which means a greater responsibility to ensure staff feel safe in their workplace. Dondale has seen changes improving safety over the past two years and said the support she can access has grown every day. This helps her focus on her job and making sure patient care is top priority.

“I have a manager that I can speak to very freely with any concerns I have in the workplace,” Dondale said. “I definitely feel more supported. We are all very close; my co-workers are my second family.”

Depending of the severity of emergency, patients can arrive at the ED feeling anxious and overwhelmed. When this happens, it’s important that the department and its staff are equipped with the proper resources to keep everybody safe.

Danielle Latty, nurse manager for the SMH ED, feels there is now more discussion about safety at work, including tough conversations when things aren’t working.

“With big renovations coming, it’s important to note that staff have been a part of the decisions every step of the way,” Latty said. “From design in renovations to approving protocol and giving input, which helps unite staff and addresses concerns across the board.”

Changes at SMH are just one part of shining a light on creating safe work environments in EDs across the province. Safety protocols are being reviewed and revised to ensure that plans and resources are in place to create a safety-first work environment.