Workplace Violence: Security is Part of Patient Care

By Scott Cormier, Vice President of Emergency Management, Environment of Care and Safety, Medxcel 

Workplace violence is a term that’s unfortunately become a more common headline popping up on our smartphones and social media feeds. It also sparks a deeper conversation among leadership teams within organizations, including those in healthcare, about how to best prepare their facilities on how to handle these types of crises. Unfortunately, as is the case with pandemics and natural disasters, the reality is that it’s not a question of whether a disaster will occur or not, but when it will strike. Thankfully, we have several tools at our disposal to equip our teams with the resources they need to combat these situations and minimize the risk to patients they serve. 

Be mindful of the world’s stressors

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine or the looming fear of another economic downturn, it’s no secret that everyone around us is dealing with some kind of heightened level of stress. Now let’s couple the ongoing world events with a loved one visiting the emergency room or receiving unfortunate news about their health. Our healthcare facility staff are often on the front lines to some of the worst days of people’s lives, which can sometimes lead to a violent outburst. 

Being observant of what’s going on in the world and how it might impact patients and hospital visitors can help better prepare our staff to be vigilant to potential violent situations so they can step in and diffuse them as quickly as possible. 

Training for a crisis goes far beyond your security teams

If your security team is your only line of defense within your healthcare facility, your security measures are already not up to par. It is virtually impossible for security to be in every location throughout a hospital 24/7 monitoring movement and behavior of every person within the facility. This is why it is imperative to train our staff to identify certain threats. “See something, say something” is a common phrase we might see posted on a sign throughout airports, sports arenas, concert venues and more. This concept is something we should also heavily instill in our healthcare facility associates when we train for how to respond to and diffuse workplace violence. 

Stepping up security measures among associates is also important. This can also be done through educating team members about wearing their badges and making sure they are visible to help facilities quickly identify who should or should not be in a particular location, as well as who can and cannot enter secure units, such as a nursery. It’s also important associates are trained to not prop doors open or hold them open for someone coming up behind them. It may seem inconvenient or discourteous, but safety is paramount.

Security is part of patient care 

Many facilities tend to fall into a cycle where they are reactive to a violent event and then substantially increase their budgets for security only to cut them back several years down the road. This creates an unsustainable cycle because many of these cuts are happening right when certain equipment (like security cameras and security systems) are in desperate need of an upgrade. 

Just like we would invest in new technology to treat patients fighting off cancers or perform minimally invasive procedures, we must do the same when it comes to the resources that keep them safe. Security is part of patient care, and it must be approached through a proactive lens to ensure those systems are up and running, especially when we need them the most.

Conclusion

A recent survey found roughly 44% and 68% of nurses experienced physical and verbal violence respectively during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While nurses are often on the front lines of these instances, this violence is also felt by everyone within a healthcare facility. It is everyone’s responsibility to stay vigilant and prepared to spot and diffuse a potential threat when it occurs. 

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About the Author

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 the national network of hospitals that Medxcel serves.