Workplace violence. For healthcare workers, it can be as simple as a patient grabbing a nurse or an associate being bullied by co-workers. Unfortunately, it can also be as grave as a deadly assault. No matter the severity, it’s vital that healthcare organizations find effective measures to eliminate violence and protect their workforce.

stressed-female-doc-(1).jpgWith the recent events of the Mercy Hospital shooting in Chicago – in which a gunman opened fire and killed three people – workplace violence and active shooter preparations in healthcare facilities are as crucial as ever.

According to OSHA, 75 percent of nearly 25,000 workplace assaults reported annually occurred in healthcare and social service settings. Additionally, The Joint Commission (TJC) recently issued a Sentinel Event Alert on violence toward healthcare workers, further proving the gravity of this issue. This is an issue we must face head-on.

Your healthcare organization can take steps to protect your staff against workplace violence. Read more for preventative measures:

Create a culture of care

When someone visits a hospital, they’re in distress. It doesn’t matter if the ailment is affecting them personally or a loved one, and it’s easy for them to develop a heightened sense of agitation. Perhaps they had a negative interaction with a security guard or receptionist clerk. Or maybe they’re simply upset.

For these reasons, healthcare organizations need to create a culture that focuses on the healing environment. Staff, not just doctors and nurses, need to handle all interactions with patients and visitors with care. By developing a culture that fosters healing – and training our staff to handle situations with care – we can create a safer place for all people.

Report incidents

As previously mentioned, 75 percent of workplace assaults happen in healthcare and social service settings. Unfortunately, these are just the ones we know about. Attacks against healthcare workers are grossly underreported, and only 30 percent of nurses report incidents of violence. Whether these workers believe their assailants are not responsible, or see violence as simply “part of the job,” increasing the reporting of these incidents will play a large role in decreasing violence in the workplace. 

While initially the increased reporting will raise the number of incidents in healthcare settings, one of the largest barriers to understanding the full scope of this issue is the underreporting. Once reported, it’s easier for healthcare organizations to take corrective measures and ensure issues like these aren’t happening.

Maintain effective protocol

Protocol is crucial to diminishing workplace violence. However, it’s equally important that the set protocol is actually effective as well. The following 10 steps will not only help to diminish violence against healthcare workers, but will also help to ensure any crisis situation is handled properly:

      1. Create a crisis management team

      2. Plan an all-team training

      3. Conduct a violence vulnerability assessment

      4. Review policy, procedures and protocols

      5. Conduct a professional threat assessment

      6. Provide training and communication for staff

      7. Incorporate organizational collaboration

      8. File timely incident responses

      9. Evaluate your efficiency

      10. Sustain the process

Mitigate the risks

 Finally, it is essential healthcare organizations minimize any potential risk factors to guarantee staff are as safe as possible. These include risk factors such as, Do staff work late or early in the morning? Is understaffing a common issue? Is the workplace located in an area with a high crime rate?
Following these initial considerations, it is important that organizations take the proper measures to lessen these risk factors. For example, criminals should be restrained and in the presence of a law enforcement officer if a nurse is attending to a criminal in custody. When these factors are considered, healthcare workers are more likely to be protected from potentially violent incidents.
As we’ve seen, workplace violence against healthcare workers is largely underreported. To protect these individuals and ensure they’re continuously providing the best care to patients, it is vital that healthcare organizations protect staff against these all-too-common incidents.