Chuck Fadness

Local EMT Chuck Fadness parries a soft jab from Bethany Kapke during the physical segment of the hospital’s Crisis Prevention Institute course. Kapke, who works in the MHCC Business Office, is playing the aggressor role so that Fadness may work on basic defensive stances.

Imagine you’re one of the many employees at the Memorial Hospital of Converse County. As you finish your shift—whether this entails washing medical instruments or using them— you hear a terrified shriek from the lobby. You sprint towards the sound of the yell to discover a fight has broken out. A disgruntled patient has attacked a finance agent over complications with his bill.

MHCC is providing a Crisis Prevention Institute program to deal with potentially threatening scenarios. These lessons are taught be several employees who are certified instructors in the course.

One of the instructors, Eric VanOsdol, who is the hospital’s facilities and safety director, explained the need for the hospital’s training.

“We’ve had a lot of concern (about) our diverse population based on the sudden influx from the oil and gas field,” he said, “So we deal with all walks of life and we wanted a better way to provide proper care, welfare, security.”

VanOsdol also noted that the MHCC employee CPI training helps provide safety for patients as well, because it de-escalates situations that could put others in danger.

Frank Wiederrecht, chief culture officer at MHCC, has overseen the employee CPI training. He explained some of the previous incidents that have convinced MHCC leadership of the importance of de-escalation training.

“There was a guy that threatened, we were afraid he was going to come back with a gun, and I offered some support to our CEO. It ended up not materializing as we feared,” he said.

According to Wiederrecht, dangerous situations with patients, though rare, are most common in the ER and among detoxing patients.

Along with preventative methods for employees, MHCC has also installed some technological safety measures.

“There are, hidden around the hospital and medical office building, emergency buttons to push. They’re silent, but law enforcement will show up momentarily to help out with the situation when needed,” Wiederrecht said.

Along with the emergency buttons are cameras throughout the facilities that record and are monitored live.

Another line of defense consists of certain employees. Wiederrecht said there are several MHCC employees who have been extensively trained in the CPI program and who would be called, along with police, to deal with a situation.

Tom Holt, MHCC director of population health and CPI instructor, outlined some specifics: 85-90% of the program is directed towards non-violent situation de-escalation; and employees are trained to do a mental risk-assessment in a few seconds to determine the likelihood and severity of a possible threat.

“We would remove everybody from the environment (during a threat), first, get all the people safe,” Holt said, “then we would try to calm the person down. And if that didn’t work, then we’d start with the low, medium, and then progress to high, control holds.”

Lower level physical measures in the program include supportive, non-restraining stances, progressing to medium and higher-level holds, with escalating physical contact.

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