A hospital is supposed to be a safe haven for patients as well as healthcare providers. However, incidents of workplace violence in healthcare facilities have become increasingly common. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the healthcare industry accounts for as many violent injuries as all other industries combined.
In a survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), 50% of the respondents claimed to have been physically assaulted at work. In some cases, incidents of violence and assault go unreported. This puts both patients and healthcare providers at risk of serious injuries.
It is evident that hospitals should implement certain measures to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence. Before we discuss how you can achieve that, let us understand what makes hospitals so vulnerable.
Why are Hospitals Susceptible to Workplace Violence?
One of the factors that put hospitals at risk of workplace violence is allowing open visitation for patients’ family and friends. This is often done in an attempt to make patients feel more comfortable and relaxed. However, it also allows the general public to access the hospital at any time during the day without proper supervision. This, in turn, can make your hospital more vulnerable.
Moreover, hospitals often release mental health patients without completing their course of treatment. In the absence of proper follow-up, such patients can become violent and return to disrupt the normal functioning of the hospital. The police and criminal justice system are increasingly using hospitals for the treatment of potentially violent criminals. This puts healthcare providers at direct risk of extreme injuries.
Other factors such as overcrowded Emergency Departments and increased wait times can also lead to violent outbursts among patients. In addition, Emergency Departments are often filled with patients suffering from behavioral issues, mental health disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Such patients are more likely to become aggressive and threaten other patients as well as staff members.
Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the potential of workplace violence in your hospital.
How to Reduce Workplace Violence in Hospitals?
The most obvious solution is to arm hospital security personnel. Additionally, you can also employ armed police officers as hospital staff. However, this is not enough to curb the menace of workplace violence in healthcare facilities. It requires meticulous foresight and planning on the part of the hospital leadership.
Raise Awareness Among Employees
The first step is to educate healthcare providers and hospital staff about the definition of workplace violence. They should be made aware of the various types of assault and threats that are likely to occur. In addition, employees should be encouraged to report such incidents to the concerned department. It is equally important to provide all-round support to employees who have been victims of workplace violence.
Track Workplace Violence Reports
One of the most important steps is to assimilate information about every incident of workplace violence from various sources. Senior-level executives and leaders can play a significant role in this regard. They should organize periodic meetings with employees as well as security staff. The key is to create a safe environment and help employees share any incidents of assault on them or their patients.
Once you have prepared a report of such incidents, it is advisable to share the same with your employees regularly. Additionally, you should also analyze every incident of workplace violence and identify the factors that led to it. This helps you improve your policies and processes to prevent such events in the future. You should also share these findings with your staff to help them understand how such situations can be avoided and/or controlled.
Revisit Your Security Program
It is crucial to scrutinize your existing security system and evaluate whether it is equipped to address any violent emergencies. Do you have a proper security protocol in place to deal with such situations? Is your security staff adequately trained to tackle a violent attacker? Your answers to these questions will help determine the areas of improvement in your security program.
A strong security program may not be the first priority of the hospital administration. In fact, investing resources in training security staff and purchasing metal detectors won’t help you earn any direct revenue. However, it can go a long way to help you control hostile situations and prevent any violent incidents from occurring.
Provide Adequate Training
Employing armed security personnel is not enough to control workplace violence in your hospital. It is equally crucial to give them proper training that equips them to deal with any unprecedented situation. You should also provide self-defense and de-escalation training to healthcare providers and other staff members. It is also advisable to conduct routine drills to prepare your employees and security staff for any emergencies.
Use An Alert Notification System
It is crucial to alert every department whenever a violent attacker has entered the hospital premises. It helps them take the necessary precautions to keep their patients safe. Moreover, they will also be better equipped to deal with the attacker and protect themselves.
One of the most effective ways of minimizing workplace violence in a hospital is to ensure proper communication between these departments. You can use an emergency notification software to send out a notification in case of any potential threat.
Collaborative Information Sharing
Let’s say your hospital is dealing with a new patient who has had a history of hostile behavior. Wouldn’t it be helpful if your staff is made aware of the patient’s history? It will help them stay alert and watch out for any red flags that could trigger a violent outburst.
It is evident that having free access to patients’ records will enable healthcare providers to handle potentially violent patients. That is why it is crucial to collaborate with other hospitals in your vicinity and create a shared database. Information related to any patient can be instantly accessed whenever they enter a hospital in the shared network. This helps alert healthcare providers in advance if they are dealing with a patient who has a history of violent behavior.
The key to controlling workplace violence in hospitals is increased awareness among doctors, nurses, and other staff members. They should be provided with a safe environment to voice their concerns and report any incidents of assault. In addition, they should be given adequate de-escalation and self-defense training to deal with hostile situations.
It is equally crucial to strengthen your hospital security system. Security personnel should be trained and well-equipped to identify and tackle an attacker. You should also work in collaboration with other hospitals to create a shared database of patients’ records. This helps notify staff members in case they are dealing with a potentially violent patient.
Have you taken any additional steps to control workplace violence in your hospital? Share your views in the comments section below.