Author: Tracey Gardiner


If you work in health care, you are working in the most violent industry in Australia. You are 5-12 times more likely to be assaulted. Therefore, it is important to be armed with great communication and de-escalation skills as well as knowledge of your legal standing relating to self-defence.

Reasoning with an aggressive person is not always possible, De-escalation is reducing the level of arousal so discussions can become possible

  • Appear calm and assertive (even if you are not inside)
  • Hide your fear and be aware that fear can lead to you being the aggressor
  • Remember all you are trying to do is calm the other person down
  • Use low even tone of voice and simple clear instructions
  • Treat the person with dignity and respect and don’t allow your past experiences or judgement to get in the way
  • Ignore insults and don’t take them personally
  • Allow more space than usual between you and the other person, at least four times, and make an excuse to leave if feeling unsafe
  • Don’t block the other persons exit as they may feel threatened
  • Empathise with feelings but not with the behaviour. For example, ‘I understand that you are upset but it is not okay for you to stand in my way’
  • Suggest simple alternatives for example,’ there may be a different day that suits you better’
  • Give choices that are beneficial for both parties, for example, ‘I could call your husband to pick you up or you could have a coffee next door if you prefer’


  • Listen to what the issue is and the person’s concerns
  • Wait until the person has released their frustration and explained how they are feeling
  • Look and maintain appropriate eye contact to connect with the person
  • Incline your head slightly, to show you are listening and give you a non-threating posture
  • Nod to confirm that you are listening and have understood
  • Express empathy to show you have understood
  • Be aware of your own body language, how you are standing and how you are holding your hands (not crossing arms or clenched fist). A person interprets what you are saying by your tone of voice and body language rather that the words you are actually using

If you and your practice could benefit from patient de-escalation training, please feel free to contact the HIES Team to book in a training session.

Phone: 07 3386 6488

Email: [email protected]