How RTLS Duress Technology Protects Healthcare Staff Against Violence and Stress

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By: Mary Kelly Jagim, MS, RN, CEN, FAEN, Principal Consultant, CenTrak

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that healthcare professionals are five times more likely to experience violence than staffers in other industries, and the issue has increased significantly during COVID-19. According to National Nurses United, 48 percent of nurses have faced increased violence since the onset of the pandemic. On top of increased violence, nurses and healthcare professionals have continuously experienced burnout, anxiety, and isolation over the last two and a half years.  

In a recent survey, McKinsey found that 32 percent of nurses are considering leaving their jobs due to the violence and stress, up 10 points from just 10 months prior. In response to these trends, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which requires certain healthcare employers to enact violence prevention efforts. 

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Fortunately, there are technologies healthcare leaders can implement to quickly protect and support staff members on the job. Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) can offer cost-effective mobile duress solutions that prevent violent threats from escalating, with just a press of a button. These systems provide accurate real-time location information and easy-to-access duress buttons located directly on staff badges, allowing healthcare professionals to signal for help from wherever they are. 

RTLS technology also provides automated approaches to remain compliant with the Joint Commission’s workplace violence prevention standards. To align with the updated standards, facilities must conduct annual worksite violence analyses, establish processes to monitor and accurately report workplace violence, and educate on de-escalation and intervention tactics. By incorporating RTLS solutions and leveraging their robust automated reporting tools, healthcare leadership and staff can significantly reduce and proactively address workplace violence. 

How Real-Time Location Systems Address Workplace Safety

After more than two years of unprecedented sacrifice, continued staffing shortages, and growing violence, providing additional support to healthcare staff is critical. The technology behind the RTLS badge provides room-level location information and features a duress button that healthcare professionals can discreetly press to call for immediate help from security or backup from their team. This ensures nurses and healthcare staff always have assistance within arm’s reach. The subtlety of the alert is key because physically signaling for help from a nearby staff member can sometimes further escalate a violent situation. 

RTLS staff duress alerting systems utilize IoT-enabled badges featuring wireless call functionality, meaning medical personnel can request help anytime/anywhere in the facility and rest assured that assistance is on the way. Facilities can customize their alert system so that duress calls are communicated via email, SMS messages, display monitors, mobile devices, security dispatchers, VoIP phone messages, and/or alarm buzzers. A dedicated communication network ensures that the duress alert is received and routed as quickly as possible.

Hospitals and healthcare leaders may want to consider RTLS duress solutions that offer clinical-grade locating (CGL) for enhanced capabilities. CGL provides the precise location (room/sub-room level) of a person or an asset and is the preferred solution for safety use cases, like staff duress. With CGL, healthcare staff members and security personnel can pinpoint the exact location where the alert originated without wasting time searching the wrong room or floor. The system provides quick, real-time location updates, so if the staff member moves during a duress situation, responding personnel have visibility into their new location. In many cases, the RTLS software is configured to provide real-time location information once the alert button is pressed and throughout the emergency, but the historical locations of individually identified staff members are not shared, alleviating any privacy concerns.  

RTLS software applications display real-time map views of the interior building, individual floors, rooms, nursing stations, hallways, stairways, and other critical areas, so teams can direct the closest staff member to the exact location of the incident. Rapid alerts and location visibility increase response times preventing staff injury, especially in high-risk areas such as the emergency department and behavioral health units. 

Integration of RTLS technology into other healthcare systems and security applications further increases safety and efficiency. Many facilities equip their traditional systems, such as access control, mass notification systems, and nurse call systems, with RTLS solutions. These solutions can be uniquely configured based on each facility’s needs. 

The Power of Supporting Healthcare Professionals 

Workplace violence negatively impacts patient care and job satisfaction, which can also lead to psychological distress, missed shifts, high turnover, and higher costs. As the increase in workplace violence continues, healthcare leaders must invest in a safe environment to protect, support, and retain staff, while also demonstrating strong employee support to prospective new hires. 

A safe workplace should be the norm, not the exception. Caregivers and healthcare staff are invaluable to patients, healthcare facilities, and our communities at large. Support at work not only increases satisfaction, but it allows healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care, providing both a fulfilling career and positive patient experiences. 

In one example, a Louisiana Level 1 Trauma hospital significantly reduced assaults and increased staff satisfaction through the integration of an RTLS staff duress solution. This facility experienced traumatic situations such as active shooters and violence from patients and visitors. During the active shooter and other violent situations, security was able to respond quickly as staff activated alerts to identify the dangerous situation taking place. The staff and leadership noted that these events “solidified to the team that the RTLS duress solutions work” for both large-scale violent events and the day-to-day. The peace of mind that comes with a user-friendly and proven RTLS works wonders for staff morale and benefits the entire healthcare facility.

Choosing the Best RTLS Duress Solution for the Team

Staff may initially dismiss RTLS technology, but its proven results are a game-changer for overall safety. While staff at the Louisiana Level 1 Trauma hospital were slow to utilize and trust the system at first, they’ve now fully embraced it thanks to more education on its use of location data and experiencing the technology in action. The hospital now plans to expand the system facility-wide.

Healthcare systems have repeatedly found that RTLS-based security solutions can significantly decrease the severity of an incident. Through early education on the technology’s purpose and ensuring staff understand how it can diffuse dangerous situations, healthcare professionals are more likely to adopt the technology and gain a safer environment.

When considering an RTLS, a strategic partner with a comprehensive suite of solutions will allow the most room for growth. By introducing RTLS with staff duress technology and experiencing the ROI, many facilities are open to other solutions, such as asset management, nurse call automation, and clinical workflow. Selecting the right partner with a range of solutions and ongoing services makes it easier to expand the system to other aspects of healthcare operations and facilities in the future. Investing in easy-to-use, real-time tools is a win for the healthcare staff, community, and facility.

Mary Jagim is an experienced leader in healthcare consulting with an expertise in real time location systems, emergency nursing, healthcare operations, and public policy.  In 2001, she served as the national president of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and led the development of ENA’s Key Concepts in ED Management Course and Guidelines in Emergency Department Staffing Tool. She was also a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Study on the Future of Emergency Care and the National Quality Forum ED Consensus Standards Committee  As the Principal Consultant for CenTrak, Mary works with healthcare organizations to leverage real time technologies coupled with process enhancements to improve the patient experience, patient and staff safety and workflow efficiency. Having implemented hundreds of real time location system projects in the last 15 years, Mary is one of the most experienced clinical leaders and implementers in Healthcare RTLS in the world and developed the “Jagim Lean RTLS Model for Healthcare.” She also currently serves as a member of the IoT Community, Healthcare Advisory Board.

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