Caution urged over use of bodycams

Body cameras can protect nurses, but may undermine patient dignity, RCN congress hears

Sarah Seeley said more research is needed to understand how best to use
body cameras. Picture: John Houlihan

More research is needed before use of body cameras becomes more widespread among nurses, RCN congress heard.

The audience at the annual conference in Belfast said the profession risked destroying patient trust if it did not first fully consider the implications of wearing cameras.

A debate on the issue was led by Sarah Seeley of RCN Suffolk branch, who said assaults on nurses were on the rise.

‘This has included staff being strangled, stabbed, head butted, punched, kicked spat at, slapped, bitten and even having their eyes gouged,’ she said.

Patient dignity

Ms Seeley said some organisations had trialled the use of body cameras with positive results, but acknowledged that more research was needed to understand how best to use them.

‘The nurse-patient relationship is very confidential and patient privacy and dignity is a priority,’ she said.

‘However, where does staff safety come in the nurse-patient interaction?’

A bill now before parliament seeks to introduce tougher sentences for people who assault emergency workers.

One nurse who disagreed with the idea of nurses wearing body cameras was Shelley Pearce of Portsmouth branch, who said she had experienced violence at work.

Shelley Pearce said staff need
training on managing violence. 
Picture: John Houlihan

‘I’ve been punched, I’ve been kicked, I’ve been taken hostage, all of these have happened in an acute hospital, not in a mental health unit,’ she said.

But instead of body cameras, Ms Pearce said staff should receive training on how to manage potentially violent incidents and be given better support when they do occur.

‘These things have happened because there is no training at that time for you to de-escalate, break away,’ she said.

‘You are left to manage that situation, to document, date and report it to the police – to then have that person not get prosecuted – that needs to change.’

Safety improved

But Monsuru Odekunle, chair of Berkshire branch, lauded the effect body cameras had on his work. Mr Odekunle told congress the technology had helped improve staff and patient safety at the high security hospital where he worked by providing a record of incidents.

‘Jobs have been lost through those complaints and people have been subjected to stress and investigative procedures,’ he said.

‘But since the advent of these body-worn cameras this has reduced significantly.’

Mental health nurse Clair Carson cautioned that the implications of protecting patient data needed thought. She said: ‘Consideration needs to be given to how it is used, viewed, saved and shared.’

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