No employee should have to face violence at work, but for many nurses, physical assaults are part of the job. According to the American Nurses Association, one in four nurses said they had been physically assaulted at work.
Nurses often have the highest levels of patient interaction, leaving them heavily exposed to potential aggression or violence. But providers, other healthcare professionals and support staff have also experienced an uptick in aggression from patients or visitors. Injured workers might need medical treatment, time off from work or face mental strain as they return to an environment that still feels unsafe.
Taking the rise in healthcare violence seriously
To manage the growing crisis, the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits healthcare systems, recently created new standards requiring accredited hospitals to:
- Create a prevention program
- Conduct an annual analysis of their prevention program
- Continually monitor and investigate incidents
- Train and educate leadership and staff on de-escalation, intervention techniques and the reporting process
OSHA is also demonstrating a commitment to enforcing workplace standards and better protecting healthcare workers:
- Recently, OSHA issued a serious citation after an aggressive patient at a Texas children’s hospital injured a security officer. OSHA found that the hospital didn’t have adequate protections in place for its workers who served patients with behavioral health issues.
- In another case, OSHA cited an Ohio children’s hospital for failing to protect nurses and mental health professionals from patient assaults. Staff members had faced concussions, sprains and lacerations, and the system didn’t keep proper records of their injuries.
So what steps are some healthcare systems taking to keep their employees safer?
How healthcare systems can reduce workplace violence
While hospitals have long anticipated aggressive behavior in emergency departments, healthcare systems are now planning for potential violence throughout the system.
With such a pervasive issue, healthcare companies have to take a multidisciplinary approach toward de-escalation and response. Staff may face aggression from a visitor—like a family member upset about their loved one’s care—or from a patient. Patients may act aggressively when experiencing a mental health disorder, dementia, confusion, frustration with care or a behavioral health issue aggravated by the healthcare setting, so staff must know how to react in different situations.
The first step is prevention. Greater environmental controls can limit some interactions, leaving patients with fewer doors to enter and giving visitors less access to certain areas or hallways. Healthcare systems can also create procedures at check-in or registration to flag previous aggression. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, this simple warning gives teams a chance to determine how to handle care, whether that means calling security for support or ensuring there is a de-escalation team in place. Security officers may also wear body cameras and staff members may carry alarms.
Training teaches staff how to react to an unsafe patient or visitor. Nurses may learn how to position themselves in a room with a patient so they don’t become trapped. Registration workers may learn to identify signs of aggression. Multidisciplinary de-escalation teams may work together to respond to an aggressive patient using techniques tailored to the age of the patient, his or her behavioral health needs and the care environment (whether that’s an emergency room, an inpatient floor or a clinic setting).
Finally, healthcare systems have to show a consistent commitment to reducing violence in the workplace. This includes investing in training, but it also involves the more uncomfortable work of documenting staff injuries, encouraging staff to self-report and openly discussing injuries and incidents to learn about patterns and new preventative measures.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you’re a healthcare worker who has been hurt on the job, you’re likely facing expenses for your own medical care and missed time off work. A workers’ compensation attorney can help. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.