A new method that monitors eye contact, tone of voice and movement could help nurses to pinpoint potentially violent patients.
Lauretta Luck at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, created the "STAMP" violence assessment framework after observing patients in an accident and emergency department for 300 hours over five months.
STAMP – Staring and eye contact, Tone and volume of voice, Anxiety, Mumbling and Pacing – provides an easy-to-remember checklist that Luck says "can be used in a wide range of potentially stressful situations".
She found that staring was an early cue for potential violence. Nurses felt that staring was used to intimidate them into prompter action, when they responded to this, violence tended to be avoided.
A lack of eye contact also pointed towards anger and passive resistance while tone and volume of voice was raised throughout most violent episodes.
A high number of violent patients also tended to mumble, slur their words, use incoherent speech or repeatedly ask the same questions.
"Violence towards healthcare staff and other professionals … are an increasing part of daily life," says Luck.
"Recognising the early signs that can lead to a violent episode can give staff the time they need to defuse the situation before it escalates."