Unhelpful Interactions with ED Staff

How emergency department (ED) staff understand and respond to the needs of people who present with a mental health related concern can contribute to the tone and quality of interpersonal interactions.

The people we spoke to described how it impacts their confidence and self-esteem when they feel that ED staff do not listen to them. It can also affect their willingness to attend an ED in the future. Some people reported having wanted to leave the ED without receiving appropriate care because they felt their concerns were not being taken seriously. Others explained that being left to wait for long periods before they are attended to without an explanation being offered is often experienced as a lack of care. Active listening and clear communication about available treatment options and decisions can help to improve healthcare experiences.

Some people also explained that they have felt scared and unsafe when they have been discharged without their concerns being addressed. Working together with people to set mutual expectations around treatment and care may help to foster trust and rapport and help to reduce potential conflict. Finding the time to talk to people about their experiences and exploring possible care and treatment responses together can foster a shared sense of personal safety and help improve mental health outcomes.

Key points

  • Using empathetic communication skills and being flexible and adaptable can help staff to reduce the distress and fear a person might be experiencing.
  • Establishing trust and rapport can help staff to work together with people who present to the ED with mental health related concerns to reach shared decisions around treatment and care.
  • Using clear communication about what treatment decisions are being made and explaining what a person can say yes or no to can help to establish expectations around treatment and care.
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