By Scott Cormier
Workplace violence against healthcare workers can be as simple as a doctor yelling at a nurse or a patient intimidating a doctor. However, it can also be as grave as a deadly assault. Regardless of severity, it’s imperative healthcare organizations find effective measures to eliminate violence and protect their workforce.
According to OSHA, 75 percent of nearly 25,000 workplace assaults reported annually occurred in healthcare and social service settings. Moreover, The Joint Commission (TJC) recently issued a Sentinel Event Alert on violence toward healthcare workers, further proving the gravity of this issue.
These incidents are grossly underreported as well. Many healthcare workers believe that violence is part of the job, and something they must learn to deal with. Sometimes they’re also uncertain what constitutes as violence and believe their assailants are not responsible for their actions, due to a multitude of reasons, according to the TJC.
Discover the ways healthcare organizations can take preventative steps to protect their staff against workplace violence.
Change the culture
When someone visits a hospital, they’re in distress – regardless if the ailment is affecting them or a family member. So, when interacting with staff prior to reaching nurses and doctors, it’s easy for people to develop a heightened sense of agitation. Perhaps they had a negative interaction with the registration clerk, or security guard. Or perhaps they’re simply just upset. Whatever it is, it’s not uncommon for people to feel upset by the time they reach the back.
For these reasons, healthcare organizations need to create a culture that focuses on the healing environment. Staff need to handle all interactions with patients and visitors with care. Too often, violence training is tailored towards doctors and nurses only, when in reality, it should be geared toward all staff.
Likewise, our society has created a culture where it’s more important to get the job done and move on, then to get the job done right. Therefore, we need a culture shift in the healthcare setting in order to diminish the number of attacks healthcare workers are currently experiencing. By simply developing a culture that fosters healing, and training our staff to handle situations with care, we can create a safer place for all people.
As previously mentioned, attacks against healthcare workers are currently grossly underreported. In fact, only 30 percent of nurses report incidents of violence. Whether these workers believe their assailants are not responsible, or whether they believe violence is simply “part of the job,” increasing the reporting of these incidents can actually play a large role in decreasing violence in the workplace.
Though the increased reporting will likely raise the number of incidents in healthcare settings initially, one of the biggest barriers to understanding the full scope of this problem is the underreporting. Once reported, it’s easier for healthcare organizations to take corrective measures and ensure issues like these aren’t happening.
Develop effective protocol
Protocol is crucial to diminishing workplace violence. However, it’s equally important that the set protocol is effective as well. Whenever developing this, the following 10 steps will prove effective to reducing workplace violence.
- Establish crisis management team
- Planning and team training
- Violence vulnerability assessment
- Policy, procedures and protocols
- Professional threat assessment
- Training and communication for staff
- Organizational collaboration
- Timely incident response
- Evaluate efficiency
- Sustain process
These ten steps will not only help to diminish violence against healthcare workers but will also help to ensure any crisis situation is handled properly.
Minimize risk factors
Finally, it is essential healthcare organizations minimize any potential risk factors to guarantee staff are as safe as possible. For example, examine risk factors such as, do staff work late at night or during early morning hours? Is the workplace commonly understaffed? Is the workplace located in an area with a high crime rate? Do employees deal with people known to have or suspected to have a history of violence?
After these considerations have been taken into account, it’s important organizations take the proper measures to lessen these risk factors. For instance, if a nurse is attending to a criminal in custody, they should be restrained and in the presence of a law enforcement officer in order to protect the nurse. When these factors are considered, healthcare workers are more likely to be protected from potentially violent incidents.
While workplace violence against healthcare workers is largely underreported, in order to protect these individuals and ensure they’re continuously providing the best care to patients as possible, it’s vital healthcare organizations are protecting their staff against these all-too-common incidents.
Scott Cormier is the Vice President of Emergency Management, Environment of Care (EOC) and Safety at Medxcel, specializing in facilities management, safety, environment of care, and emergency management and provides healthcare service support products and drives in-house capabilities, saving and efficiencies for healthcare organizations that, in turn, improve the overall healing environment for patients and staff. Cormier leads the development and implementation of emergency management, general safety and accident-prevention programs for a national network of hospitals that Medxcel serves.