Accelerate Workplace Violence Prevention In 2024

Updated on January 12, 2024

4 steps to implement a successful Workforce Safety program.

In 2023, health care workplace violence continued to be an ever-present concern across the country. According to the most recent information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare workers are five times as likely to experience workplace violence as other professions. 

Workplace violence has a detrimental impact on the entire system and its patients, caregivers, and other staff who are already stretched well beyond their physical and emotional means. The problem of workplace violence and its far-reaching consequences have become far too commonplace. 

It’s time for stakeholders to act. Fortunately, there is a path forward.

Empowering workplace violence prevention committees and conducting effective, organization-wide training are crucial steps in implementing a workforce safety program to retain and protect staff, patients, and visitors. As we begin a new year, use these tips to help overcome what can feel like an insurmountable problem and de-mystify the implementation of a workforce safety program in 2024. 

Activate Internal Advocates

The success of any workplace violence prevention program is directly tied to the number of internal advocates it will have within the organization. It requires ownership from executive leadership to frontline staff, across all departments. This can be accomplished through the formation of workplace violence prevention committees. 

The committees should have representatives from all areas of the organization. To form the workplace violence committee structure, organizations should include representation from Public Safety, Risk Management, Legal, Human Resources, Senior Leadership, clinical and staff areas, and Social Services. The size of an organization may determine how many workplace violence prevention committees are needed. There may be only one workplace violence prevention committee for an entire organization, or there may be one workplace violence prevention oversight committee, with several subcommittees/teams from other buildings/facilities that report up to the oversight committee. In addition, it is common to have other organizational committees (e.g., Safety Committee, Compliance Committee, Engineering Group, etc.) that report to the workplace violence prevention committee.

Many larger health care organizations may already have committees in place, but they can be left powerless. They often exist without executive endorsement or full integration into employees’ daily working lives. When committees have no real influence, it’s difficult to effect change. Precious time is dedicated to discussing the problem, but action is not taken because there is no accountability in place. 

Violence and tension can linger — even among those who believe in the organization’s efforts — and the result is a continued mass exodus from the health care profession. 

By building an infrastructure of teams committed to workforce safety, employees across departments will have ownership over your program’s successful implementation. And executive leadership proves they support your team’s efforts to make true change. 

As an added benefit, this reiterates that the organization is serious about accountability, and builds trust throughout the organization. 

Integrate Practical, User-Friendly De-Escalation Training

Though it can seem overwhelming at the outset, any program implementation is manageable when done in steps and carried out by stakeholders at each level of the organization. You’re all in it together and empowering teams and individuals at all levels proves it.

The overall goal of a workforce safety program is to provide all employees in your organization strategies and techniques to make your facilities safer for all. De-escalation training protects your employees, patients, and visitors, reduces staff turnover, and increases your ability to recruit new employees. Any training programs should be scaled to fit your needs and can be integrated within the infrastructure you already have in place through your security team or related personnel. By establishing a committee with internal stakeholders, you’ll empower your team members to make the best recommendations about how to implement de-escalation training so it’s most effective. 

Any training option you choose should be integrated into staff schedules in a way that’s convenient and motivational, not disruptive and burdensome. 

Initiate A Reporting System

To further support staff through your workplace violence prevention committees, develop a reporting system. This system should be led by appointed leaders on your committee. It’s a critical step toward building the safety infrastructure you need, and helps you pinpoint areas for improvement.

Creating a reporting system to conduct risk assessments and gather data within your organization can feel like an overwhelming task. That’s why Crisis Prevention Institute offers a free resource, the Workplace Violence Prevention Handbook, to serve as a reference manual to help navigate and fill gaps that commonly exist in health care workforce safety programs.

Appoint Leaders

Leadership has an essential function in the successful rollout and sustainability of any workplace safety plan. Appoint certified trainers and other related personnel to communicate the purpose of your plan, how it’s being implemented, training goals, and completed benchmarks to all employees. 

This sets clear expectations and gives employees a touchpoint for questions that arise while on the job. In addition to supplying information, the leaders you activate should also encourage feedback, ensuring employees’ concerns and experiences are heard.

Nurture a Culture of Safety with Empathy and Compassion

Any solution to workplace violence must meet the realities of your over-extended and over-worked staff, and it’s not something you can expect to change overnight. In fact, taking the process one step at a time allows for thorough training, practical application of the education throughout your facilities as learning occurs, and a feeling of unity and ownership among all employees. Your teams should take time to learn, understand and live the de-escalation training you implement. That includes practicing the verbal, and non-verbal communication techniques that cultivate empathy and compassion for everyone. As your teams learn together, they will also learn how to work together to help reduce the stress, anxiety and tension that can spark moments of conflict and violence.  

Implementing de-escalation training can change your culture to create a safer environment, while generating other positive results in a snowball effect. It boosts recruitment, improves staff retention in the face of industry-wide burnout, and helps uphold accountability across departments and throughout your organization.

Small Steps to a Safer Tomorrow

The violence plaguing health care workplaces is a societal problem. Still, when health systems, hospitals and other organizations pause, plan and carefully implement a workplace violence prevention program, step-by-step, they can make lasting change. 

There’s no doubt the problem feels overwhelming, but by engaging experts and methodically executing a plan, you can make change and create safer environments dedicated to healing, not reaction to violence. 

And in doing so, you can create the working environment your staff deserves and expects — the kind of environment that called them to health care in the first place. 

AlGene Caraulia
AlGene P. Caraulia
Vice President, Integration and Sustainability at Crisis Prevention Institute

Drawing upon his expertise in organizational behavior, program design, facilitation, and implementation, Caraulia led CPI's training department, global professional managers and instructors in North America, Europe and Asia. In 2018, he transitioned into his current role partnering with enterprises and focusing on the delivery of superior customer experiences to internal and external customers. Caraulia began his career at CPI as a professional staff instructor and has provided Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® and related training to professionals in education, health care, mental health, human service and security/law enforcement practices across the globe.