Challenging behaviour for health professionals

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviour is any behaviour with the potential to physically or psychologically harm another person, self or property. It can be deliberate or unintentional and ranges from verbal abuse through to threats or acts of physical violence. Challenging behaviour or actions result in people feeling unsafe or threatened, or feeling that intervention or withdrawal is warranted to avoid harm to someone.

Ultimately, regardless of its extremity, challenging behaviour is a barrier to the delivery of care in a way that is safe for the patient and health staff.

Patients, consumers, carers, volunteers and staff all want health services in which health care can be both delivered and received without personal threat or risk.

SA Health has launched a new Challenging Behaviour Strategic Framework (PDF 1.98MB) and Quality Information and Performance (QIP) Challenging Behaviour Incident Dashboard, supported by an updated policy directive (PDF 462KB), policy guideline (PDF 255KB), toolkit and training to provide staff with relevant information to prevent, recognise, respond to and manage challenging behaviour.

View the guide to using the challenging behaviour policy directive, guideline and toolkit (PDF 92KB).

Challenging behaviour spotlight themes

SA Health is committed to keeping all people in the system safe from harm. To further help our staff prevent, recognise, and manage challenging behaviour, a calendar of themes (PDF 60KB) was introduced to put a spotlight on a range of topics relating to challenging behaviour.

Themes, topics, tools and resources reflecting priority areas from the Challenging Behaviour Strategic Framework will be highlighted every quarter of 2021.

View resources and tools for the Challenging Behaviour: Spotlight Themes.

SA Health resources

SA Health has developed a series of fact sheets explaining challenging behaviour, its impact on health services and how to deal with it.

Fact sheets:


National Safety and Quality Service Standard (NSQHS) 5: Comprehensive Care

The NSQHS Standard 5: Comprehensive Care describes actions that need to be met for accreditation:

5.33 The health service organisation has processes to identify and mitigate situations that may precipitate aggression

5.34 The health service organisation has processes to support collaboration with patients, carers and families to:

  • identify patients at risk of becoming aggressive or violent
  • implement de-escalation strategies
  • safely manage aggression, and minimise harm to patients, carers, families and the workforce

The SA Health Accreditation Resource Standard 5: Comprehensive Care identifies the resources that are available to support each action.

Challenging Behaviour Incident Dashboard

SA Health has developed a new Challenging Behaviour Incident Dashboard to provide an overview and aid decision making in preventing and safely responding to challenging behaviour.

The dashboard reports on five key areas including;

  • patient challenging behaviour incidents
  • patient restraint/seclusion incidents
  • worker challenging behaviour incidents
  • security code black incidents
  • security assists

SA Health staff can access the Dashboard by visiting the SA Health QIP Hub.

Education and training

SA Health Introduction to preventing and responding to Challenging Behaviour (eLearning) available through local online education platforms

This eLearning course is intended as an introduction to all staff on what is challenging behaviour and the type of strategies that can be put into place to prevent, and when necessary respond to these incidents. See the eLearning guide (PDF 582KB) for a list of core elements and sample pages. The course will take approximately one hour to complete.

Community awareness campaigns


Workforce Services
Phone: (08) 8226 6816