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SUMMARY Back to Course Index

Aggression is broadly defined.  It can be physical, mental, or verbal.  Aggression and violence are frequently preventable by being watchful of warning signs and knowledgeable regarding individuals’ triggers for aggressive behavior.

Active listening and cognitive restructuring can be used to de-escalate an angry or potentially aggressive patient.

If an incident does occur, employ crisis intervention techniques, notify supervisors immediately, and complete an incident report.

Repeated training in the management of aggressive behavior is necessary to develop the high degree of competence this work requires.  Good training promotes the retention of qualified staff, the safety of patients and staff, and better treatment outcomes.


Drummond DJ, Sparr LF, Gordon GH: Hospital violence reduction among high-risk patients. JAMA 261:2531-2534, 1989Crossref, Medline

Kennedy J, Harrison J, Hillis T, et al: Analysis of violent incidents in a regional secure unit.  Medicine, Science, and the Law 35:255-260, 1995 Crossref, Medline

Lanza ML, Kayne HL, Hicks C, et al: Environmental characteristics related to the patient assault.  Issues in Mental Health Nursing 15:319-335, 1994 Crossref, Medline

Sheridan M, Henrion R, Robinson L, et al: Precipitants of violence in a psychiatric inpatient setting.  Hospital and Community Psychiatry 41:776-780, 1990 Abstract