Mental Health Trauma

Building safer workplaces for health-care workers

Viviana Vargas at the triage desk at St. Paul's Hospital. (Brian Smith photo)

The BC government announced today it is working to build safer workplaces for health-care workers and patients with a new security model across all health authorities, hiring more protection services employees and expanding funding to SWITCH BC, a new organization focused on workplace safety.

About 320 in-house protection services officers and 14 violence-prevention leads will be hired and will help create a safer environment for staff and patients.

Measures will support recruitment and patient care

“These actions will help ensure all health-care employees have safe and healthy workplaces, and that the patients who count on them are accessing care in a safe environment. Ensuring our health-care facilities are free of violence will not only help us recruit and retain health-care workers, but it will also improve patient care and continuity,” says Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Establishing SWITCH BC furthered our commitment to create safe and welcoming workplaces for our health-care employees, and this latest action empowers security personnel to support these efforts.”

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix announced new workplace safety measures.

The BC government is providing health authorities with funding to establish a relational security model in 26 health-care settings and hire staff to support it. The new model ensures all security personnel have an acute awareness of patients and their surroundings, as well as how to anticipate, de-escalate and ultimately prevent aggression. It is based on trauma-informed practice, which integrates knowledge of how people are affected by trauma into procedures, practices and services to create a safer environment for staff and patients.

Training for protection services in trauma-informed violence/mental health service

All protection services personnel will receive training in workplace violence prevention, mental health and advanced customer service. They will also receive trauma-informed practice training to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and language to be able to apply a trauma-informed lens to interactions with patients, families, clients and colleagues.

Government is also providing $2 million to SWITCH BC (Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Healthcare) to address workplace safety. This is in addition to funding of $8.5 million over three years announced in 2019 to establish the organization.

Training in violence de-escalation

SWITCH BC is leading the enhancement and strengthening of the Provincial Violence Prevention Curriculum, which will incorporate the trauma-informed practice principles that are embedded within the relational security model. This will ensure all health-care workers and medical staff receive standard education in violence mitigation and de-escalation. SWITCH BC will engage with health-care teams to hear their ideas on improving health and safety in their workplaces.

“Everyone working in health care has the right to be safe and healthy, to thrive on the job and to return home safely to family and friends,” says Victoria Schmid, CEO of SWITCH BC. “That’s why we are inviting everyone working in health care to share their experiences as we refresh violence prevention training. This will help shape an inclusive, diverse and trauma-informed program that better meets the needs of health-care teams now and into the future.”

“We can’t afford to lose (health care workers)”

“Specialized health professionals on the front lines of care delivery in B.C. have faced increased hostility since the pandemic, and incidents of workplace violence are pushing these already exhausted staff past the breaking point,” says Kane Tse, president, Health Services Association. “We can’t afford to lose any of them.”

Read the full news release from the Government of BC here.