The statistics are grim: According to a recent assessment, violence is five times more likely to occur in hospital settings than in the rest of the country’s workplaces. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Violence in the health care workplace has increased every year since 2011 – and the rate of violence against nurses and personal care facility workers is twice the rate for other health workers.
In Pennsylvania, nurses are at greater risk of workplace injuries due to physical assault than nearly every other profession. The rate of workplace violence against all healthcare workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2020, according to data from the Hospital and Health Systems Association of Pennsylvania.
RELATED: Health facilities should be places of healing, not violence
In our own Allegheny Health network in western Pennsylvania, 89% of emergency department physicians reported being threatened by a patient or visitor in the past year, and nearly half of our nurses have been physically assaulted by someone in their care during their careers. was attacked by
There are few hospitals that haven’t reported a serious increase in violence against caregivers in the COVID-19 era. In fact, A March survey from ECRI— an independent group that tracks health care safety and quality trends — identified “verbal and physical abuse against health workers” as the industry’s No. 2 concern for 2023, second only to the pediatric mental health crisis Above.
Those who do not work in a hospital setting may find this information shocking. Those who do, however, know the reality of it all too well: Biting, punching, kicking and verbal assaults have become common threats to healthcare providers.
This is unacceptable, and it must end.
Zero tolerance for violence
Violence against hospital caregivers is at such epidemic levels the Joint Commission last year implemented new violence-prevention standards for all commission-accredited hospitals. The updated protocol includes new guidelines related to reporting and data collection, post-incident analysis, de-escalation training and establishing a culture of safety.
That last item may be the most important. As healthcare leaders, we must recognize that patients and their families often come to our facilities at their lowest point, on the most difficult days of their lives. Emotions and anger often run high, especially in emergency departments and critical care settings.
But that sensitivity must have limits, especially when violence—or even the threat of violence—arrises. We feel obliged to pat our nurses, doctors and other frontline workers in such situations and do whatever is necessary to ensure their safety.
Not a Modern Healthcare subscriber? Sign up today.
While there is no silver bullet for curbing violence in health care settings, it starts with a zero-tolerance policy for violent or abusive behavior. In healthcare, that kind of mindset requires a substantial cultural shift.
For too long, violence has been expected—to an extent even tolerated—in our EDs. Experienced caregivers tell young children that sometimes seizures are inevitable, and can be considered a natural part of the workday as a result. When this attitude prevails, “small” incidents may be overlooked and not reported to leadership.
Fortunately, this is starting to change. At AHN and in hospitals across the country, violence against caregivers is promptly addressed and reported, and patients and visitors are advised that there is zero tolerance for such behavior and that assaults are prosecuted Will go
it starts at the top
Violence against caregivers cannot be viewed as just an emergency department issue or a safety issue—it is a problem solving for all And starting from the top, it should be a priority for the entire organization.
Preparing for, responding to, and mitigating violence requires a comprehensive strategy that includes input and buy-in from hospital leadership, security, human resources, patient-safety officers, physician wellness leaders, behavioral health experts, and others. These are included.
The best way to combat violence in hospitals, of course, is to stop it before it starts.
This means investing in conflict-de-escalation training for caregivers and other staff and having tools and protocols in place that allow staff and security to intervene quickly before patients or family members become combative and the situation becomes destabilizing. allow to do.
And while violence is never an appropriate response to waiting too long, we must recognize our role in creating stressful situations—not only in the ED but also in common areas where anger can flare up. Alleviating that stress means moving clinical staff to waiting areas to provide more frequent patient updates, investing in patient-flow coordinators who can help with triage more efficiently and relocating when clinically appropriate. And caring can take proactive steps to reduce ED traffic.
Of course, violence can also have roots out-of-hospital stresssuch as housing instability, food insecurity, substance abuse or mental health issues, which is another reason for health systems and other organizations to prioritize strategies focused on social factors affecting well-being.
caring for caregivers
We recognize that despite best efforts and programs, caregivers will always face some degree of risk. That’s why it’s so important that our team members are included in all the support they need. When incidents do occur, we provide treatment to our employees to help them recover from the trauma of the experience. We conduct inquiries, collect data, identify repeat offenders and pursue criminal charges when warranted.
Our actions must be immediate and purposeful. There is nothing more discouraging for team members than feeling that there is an inadequate response or consequence for violent acts against them.
In order for us to be the best we can be for our patients, healthcare providers must create the safest working environment possible for those who choose these healing professions and who will continue to help us deliver on our promise to build safe, healthy communities. Let’s help
Download Modern Healthcare’s app to stay informed on breaking industry news.