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West J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;13(1):17-25. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2011.9.6864.

Verbal De-escalation of the Agitated Patient: Consensus Statement of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry Project BETA De-escalation Workgroup.

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1
Tufts University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts.

Abstract

Agitation is an acute behavioral emergency requiring immediate intervention. Traditional methods of treating agitated patients, ie, routine restraints and involuntary medication, have been replaced with a much greater emphasis on a noncoercive approach. Experienced practitioners have found that if such interventions are undertaken with genuine commitment, successful outcomes can occur far more often than previously thought possible. In the new paradigm, a 3-step approach is used. First, the patient is verbally engaged; then a collaborative relationship is established; and, finally, the patient is verbally de-escalated out of the agitated state. Verbal de-escalation is usually the key to engaging the patient and helping him become an active partner in his evaluation and treatment; although, we also recognize that in some cases nonverbal approaches, such as voluntary medication and environment planning, are also important. When working with an agitated patient, there are 4 main objectives: (1) ensure the safety of the patient, staff, and others in the area; (2) help the patient manage his emotions and distress and maintain or regain control of his behavior; (3) avoid the use of restraint when at all possible; and (4) avoid coercive interventions that escalate agitation. The authors detail the proper foundations for appropriate training for de-escalation and provide intervention guidelines, using the "10 domains of de-escalation."

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