Statement of purpose The purpose of this project was to develop a safe, violence-free environment within one large paediatric hospital by empowering healthcare workers to intervene when they witnessed situations where parents or caregivers were struggling with parenting.
Methods/approach Hospital staff and volunteers (n = 108) were trained in techniques to: a) connect with, b) distract, and c) support distracted, stressed or angry parents. Attendees completed pre and post surveys investigating attitudes and experiences towards the distracted, stressed or angry parent. Physicians and medical residents received additional education on the effects of toxic stress, including physical punishment, on children’s brain development.
Results Prior to training, respondents were more comfortable intervening with the distracted (72%) or stressed parent (60%) than the abusive parent (38%). After training, respondents were more likely to report compassion (p < 0.005) and comfort intervening (p < 0.001) toward the abusive parent. Post-training, 86% of respondents felt comfortable intervening with the distracted parent (n.s.), 67% felt comfortable intervening with the stressed parent (n.s.) and 56% were comfortable intervening with the abusive parent (56%). Significant increases were seen in the percent of physicians and residents (n = 27) discussing general disciplinary practices (p < 0.05), and spanking (p < 0.05) with parents and caregivers.
Conclusions Training healthcare workers in how to safely deescalate difficult parenting situations can be an effective prevention Method in child maltreatment.
Significance and contributions This translational research project demonstrates how an educational program for grocery store employees was effectively modified for use in the paediatric setting. Empowering bystanders to respectfully intervene with parents who are using harsh strategies creates a ripple effect. When parents see and experience a safe area where struggles are validated and responded to with care and compassion, this experience can flow into the surrounding community.
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