Agitated Psychiatric Patient
This scenario was developed to educate emergency medicine residents about the diagnosis and management of the agitated psychiatric patient.
The prevalence of agitation among patients in the emergency department is increasing, with an estimated 1.7 million events occurring annually in the United States.1 There are various methodologies for de-escalation, including verbal and chemical de-escalation and physical restraints. Chemical and/or physical restraints are sometimes necessary to ensure patient and staff safety when verbal de-escalation is ineffective, particularly since agitation is the leading cause of hospital staff injuries.2 Chemical restraints have been shown to be less physically traumatizing to patients.3 4 Adverse events associated with physical restraints include persistent psychological distress, blunt chest trauma, aspiration, respiratory depression, and asphyxiation leading to cardiac arrest.5 In regards to chemical restraints, adverse event reporting has been heterogeneous among studies, but the most consistent reported events involve respiratory compromise such as desaturation, airway obstruction, and respiratory depression.3 A study measuring QTc (corrected QT interval) after high-dose intramuscular ziprasidone or haloperidol did not demonstrate any QTc longer than 480 msec.6Other events linked to chemical restraints include uncommon cardiovascular events and extrapyramidal side effects from medications.3 The main classes of medications utilized for chemical restraint include first-generation antipsychotics (eg, haloperidol and droperidol), second-generation antipsychotics (olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, aripiprazole, and ziprasidone), benzodiazipenes (eg, lorazepam and midazolam), and N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonists (eg, ketamine).7,8 It is important to exclude other medical causes of agitation, consider the differential diagnoses, and then select a medication that is tailored to address underlying etiologies while remaining cognizant of the side effect profiles of these chemical agents.
At the conclusion of the simulation session, learners will be able to: 1) Obtain a relevant focused history and physical examination on the agitated psychiatric patient. 2) Develop a differential for the agitated psychiatric patient, including primary psychiatric conditions and other organic pathologies. 3) Discuss the management of the agitated psychiatric patient, including the different options available for chemical sedation. 4) Prioritize safety of self and staff when caring for an agitated psychiatric patient.
This session was conducted using simulation with a standardized patient, followed by a debriefing session and lecture on the presentation, differential diagnosis, and management of the agitated psychiatric patient. Debriefing methods may be left to the discretion of participants, but the authors have utilized advocacy-inquiry techniques. This scenario may also be run as an oral board examination case.
The residents are provided a survey at the completion of the debriefing session to rate different aspects of the simulation, as well as provide qualitative feedback on the scenario. This survey is specific to the local institution’s simulation center.
Feedback from the residents was overwhelmingly positive, although many stated that they felt some degree of intimidation or stress from the standardized patient who did not break from their role throughout the scenario.
The local institution’s simulation center feedback form is based on the Center of Medical Simulation’s Debriefing Assessment for Simulation in Healthcare (DASH) Student Version Short Form9 with the inclusion of required qualitative feedback if an element was scored less than a 6 or 7. This session received mostly 7 scores (extremely effective/outstanding).
This is a physically safe method for reviewing management of the agitated psychiatric patient. There are multiple potential presentations of the agitated psychiatric patient, as well as varying underlying etiologies. These scenarios may be tailored to the needs of the learner, including identifying agitation, pharmacologic review, and de-escalation techniques.
Medical simulation, agitated psychiatric patient, chemical sedation, verbal de-escalation, emergency medicine, psychiatry.