By CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– When tensions escalate with patients or visitors at UCHealth, it’s called a Code Gray. Inappropriate behavior like verbal threats, foul language and physical violence used to be handled by security.

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But now, a new emergency team has been formed to try to de-escalate the situation and keep everyone safe 24/7.

“I have a patient who is escalating pretty quickly. I need to call a Code Gray,” said Mia Gomez, charge nurse at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). She was taking part in a mock scenario where a patient is agitated and aggressive. It’s a situation staff at UCH encounter often.

“In the past we had the security team respond and more often times than not, that security presence could provoke the patient,” said Amelia Walden, a behavioral health clinical nurse specialist with UCH.

But since July 1, when a Code Gray is sent, the Behavioral Emergency Response Team (BERT), arrives within 4 minutes and is immediately briefed. The team includes behavioral health specialists, supervisors, and security… just in case. The members huddle before taking action.

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“The nurse went in there and the patient tried to lay hands on the nurse,” explained Gomez as she made up details for the drill.

Walden has seen that very thing.

“I’ve seen nurses get kicked, punched, broken nose,” she said.

Walden led the development of the new BERT.

“Our hope is to reduce the incidence of workplace violence,” she explained.

In the practice drill, the team decided the best approach.

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Behavioral Health Specialist Lynissa Scoggins was able to talk to the patient and resolve the situation. The team motto is “Call early, Call often” if you recognize a Code Gray. The ultimate goal is to keep the hospital safe for patients and staff.

Kathy Walsh