A Question of Focus
Are our care staff giving more focus to the list of tasks and jobs to be done while on shift in their often overworked and under-resourced facilities, or are they focussed entirely on the people they are caring for?
In terms of restraint, we see both subtle and grotesque versions of the task-focus problem in action when we speak to staff on our Safe-Holding, physical intervention and restraint training courses .
One example was some months ago when our trainer was speaking with a group of staff about the problems of physical aggression in their work. One carer stood up to display the bruises on her arms, sustained only the previous day, when her resident ” pushed and beat me on my arms and soaked me with water ” while she was focussed on her task.
The story emerged as follows:
“The resident kept pushing and beating me on the arms, when I was giving him his shower!”
“Can you explain further?” the trainer asked….
“When I went to give him his shower, he refused! But it was Wednesday afternoon and that is when Mr. Smith is supposed to have his shower!”
“So what did you do when he refused to have his shower?” the trainer asked.
“Well, I would get in trouble with the supervising manager if he missed his shower, so I, well I….I suppose I kind of had to usher him into the bathroom and hold him under the shower…..”
…which is when Mr. Smith pushed and beat the member of staff away from him, as she forced him into taking a shower, as per the rota / schedule / task-list!
Unbelievable? Unfortunately, this is all too common scenario for our training team as we often meet staff in this situation – caught between a rigidly-imposed task-schedule focus and their own sense of doing the right thing.
A high level of task-focus amongst a staff team is likely to mean that there are a higher number of service-users presenting with ‘challenging behaviour’, lashing-out at care staff and increasing the incidence of restraint.
In our core training material from VDI, we like to focus on some core values that improve how people respond under stress and express themselves:
Treat people like you would like to be treated under identical circumstances. Our goal is to generate voluntary compliance, cooperation, and collaboration. (Verbal Defense and Influence Communication Maxims)
Improving the person-centred focus in these environments is likely to reduce the frequency of aggressive outbursts and violence towards staff. One of our core presentations is called “Bathing without the Battle“, (here is a video of the presentation) based on the book of the same name.
For ways to deal with people in altered states of reality, or emotionally disturbed people, or simply to learn ways of effectively communicating while under stress, why not join our upcoming UK Verbal Defense and Influence instructor course, run in conjunction with Vistelar Group? The course will run in late 2016 in Surrey at a fully residential venue.
Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant. He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist in personal safety and violence reduction initiatives and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict. www.dynamis.training