Staff member in Cath Lab in scrubsStaff in scrubs in the Cath LabStaff in scrubs in the Cath Lab


Rolling out Safewards in our Emergency Department

4 September 2023

Safewards is a model of engagement and preventative strategy tool that aims to improve safety for both patients and staff. Acknowledging the success Safewards has had in our Mental Health precinct, Austin Health is excited to celebrate the launch of Safewards in our Emergency Department (ED).

We spoke with Liz Williams, one of our dedicated Associate Nurse Unit Managers in the ED and one of our leads for the Safewards implementation.

What is Safewards and why is it important?

Safewards is a model designed to reduce conflict and increase a sense of safety and mutual support for patients and staff. ED’s unfortunately tend to experience a disproportionate amount of occupational violence. Implementing Safewards will convey a uniform message to both patients and staff, assuring everyone is welcome and that the ED is a safe environment.

What benefits are you hoping Safewards will bring?

I hope to see a reduction in the occupational violence we experience in the ED, with a ripple effect to continue across the organisation. In most circumstances, the ED is the main point of entry for patients seen at Austin Health. A good initial experience can often set the tone for the remainder of their stay.

Why is the ‘Know Each Other’ intervention you are supporting important?

We ask our patients a lot of questions, from the physical to the social and emotional, yet our patients know very little about us. We want patients to know that when they come to the ED, they are encouraged to ask us questions to get to know us better. It's my hope that this initiative will create an environment where patients and staff can feel a sense of connection.

What other interventions is the ED implementing?

We are hoping to implement several interventions over time. Another intervention we are implementing is “positive words”. This intervention aims to develop staff handover skills and promote the use of positive language at commencement of shift to ensure patients receive the best care.

Further information about Safewards and its role in healthcare in Victoria can be found via the Victorian Department of Health.