Violence Against Hospital Caregivers: Do We Need a Patient Whisperer?

I recently viewed the story from AMA Morning Rounds about violence against hospital caregivers, which is common California and around the country, including Iowa. It’s hard to say whether it’s increasing over time because there’s no data being collected about occurrence rates. Hospital employee union are pushing for broader protections.

Enter Horse Therapy, which I recently read about in the July 2011 issue of Clinical Psychiatry News, see link In a project started at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, psychiatrists notice that some violent patients become less violent after caring for horses. These are specially trained therapy horses (dogs are not effective for reasons that are not clear) who are sort of patient whisperers. Three months before the project started at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morristown, N.J., violent patients averaged about 3 attacks on others and three months after the project started, they averaged about 2 attacks. This was a randomized, controlled clinical trial.

Patients spent about an hour at a time grooming and saddling them. The horses couldn’t tolerate much more than that, which should invite some questions.

Overall, though there was a reduction in the requirements for one-on-one observation, and a reduction in violence.

It doesn’t sound earth-shaking and we’d all like to see more impressive results from interventions to prevent violence in psychiatric hospitals and emergency rooms. But its a step in the right direction.



  1. Maybe a horse should be part of the Staff in Psychiatric Wards!


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