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Personal security for practice nurses

Ken Meanwell
Inspector
Lincolnshire Police Crime & Disorder Reduction Department

Fortunately, violent crime is relatively rare. It does, however, attract a great deal of media coverage, which in turn can generate fear and affect the ­quality of your life.
It is difficult to assess risks to practice nurses, but dealing with members of the community and patients who may be agitated or distressed can place you in difficult situations, some of which could be potentially dangerous.
There are two things to remember:

  • Don't allow the worry of violent crime to spoil your life.
  • Common sense and simple precautions can help to ensure your wellbeing.

At work

Access control

  • The most effective control is an efficient reception area that is designed to deter attacks on staff.
  • Restrict access to consulting rooms and offices and keep them locked when not in use.
  • Main entrances, reception and waiting areas should be visible to staff.
  • Monitor the arrival and departure of patients.
  • Consulting rooms should be equipped with ­personal attack alarms to summon assistance from other members of staff. In addition, a portable personal attack alarm should be carried at all times.
  • Be prepared for all ­ eventualities - problems can and will occur.
  • Avoid behaviour that may provoke a patient into a violent reaction.
  • Keep calm - don't shout or raise your voice unnecessarily.
  • Equipment that could be used as a weapon should be kept out of sight when not in use.
  • Ensure that there is a clear escape route from the consulting room.
  • Appear confident at all times, a potential assailant who can see that you are alert to security measures may be deterred from continuing with an attack.
  • If, in spite of these precautions, an attack is made or attempted, your primary aim should be to get away. Physical self-defence is a last resort because it limits your options of getting away. It may ­commit you to a fight that you may lose.

Home visits

Driving

  • Keep your car well maintained and make sure it has sufficient fuel to complete the journey.
  • Plan your journey and where possible park in well-lit, busy streets.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect your visit to be finished.
  • Always carry your personal attack alarm and, ­during hours of darkness, a torch. Consider ­purchasing a mobile phone and ensure you preset emergency contact numbers for fast access.
  • When leaving your vehicle, lock all doors and remove all valuables and medical equipment (which should be kept to a minimum); lock items you cannot take with you in your boot.
  • Do not advertise the fact that your car is being used by a nurse.
  • Have your key ready when you get back to your car.

Walking

  • Don't take short cuts through dark alleys or across waste ground.
  • Walk facing the traffic so no-one can pull up behind you.
  • If a car stops and you are threatened, scream or shout loudly and run the other way.
  • Carry your bag close to you, with the opening ­facing towards you. If someone grabs it, let go. If you hang on you could get hurt. Keep your house and car keys in your pocket.

Resource
Further advice on personal safety issues can be obtained from the Home Office ­website:
W:www.homeoffice.gov.uk