The emergency department (ED) staff provides much of any hospital’s most intensive care. In the emergency room (ER), the stakes are high for patients often experiencing life-threatening illnesses and injuries. The care they receive may mean the difference between life and death. ER caregivers work under intense pressure to provide effective care. The stakes for these employees are also increasingly high due to emergency room violence. Hospital staff reports that incidents of workplace violence are on the rise in ERs across the country. Hospital administrations must therefore prioritize ER safety by instituting hospital safety plans that enable providers to call for help anytime, from anywhere. Employers should take measures to safeguard ER frontline caregivers as they provide life-saving patient care. 

The Critical Role of ER Providers

The ER is among the most intensive departments in any hospital. ER providers are tasked with not only providing critical medical care but also with interfacing with members of the public amid a crisis. Busy emergency departments see a constant flow of patients suffering from acute illness or injury. Typical ER staff includes nurses, doctors, physicians, and others who must work together to address a wide range of medical issues such as cardiac arrest, stroke, fatal injury, pregnancy complications, asthma, and symptoms associated with Covid-19.

ER providers are the first point of contact at a hospital. They engage with people from disparate age groups, backgrounds, and language groups. They provide care for patients with a wide variety of health histories. Emergency medicine is an inherently challenging field because few emergency patients present in a manner that can be managed according to a well-prescribed pathway. Many patients with potentially life-threatening conditions present in an unusual or atypical manner. They may also fail to respond to initial treatment as providers expect. These perplexing presentations and complex patients constitute a significant proportion of ED-related incidents and adverse events. Providers are challenged to provide effective patient care under challenging circumstances. ER patients too are challenged: they are sick or injured, stressed, worried, and craving relief from their symptoms. This high-pressure environment creates conditions in which conflict and violence are increasingly common.

ER Violence is Up

Improve hospital safety plan

Improve hospital safety plan

Nearly half of emergency physicians have been assaulted while at work in the emergency department, while over seventy percent have witnessed another assault. Only ten percent have experienced either. Clearly, inadequate ER safety is a problem for the doctors, nurses, and other staff members who become targets of violence. Furthermore, according to Vidor Friedman, MD, past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), ER violence harms everyone present. “When violence occurs in an ED, patients can be injured or traumatized to the point of leaving without being seen. It also can increase wait times and distract emergency staff from focusing on other patients who urgently require a physician’s assistance.”

The causes of violence in hospital emergency departments vary. ERs are easy for members of the public to access. Patients in the midst of a mental health crisis, for example, can freely enter the ER. Their behavior may be aggressive or irrational, which poses an acute challenge to ER staff members, most of whom are simultaneously providing care to other patients. More than 40 percent of emergency physicians believe that more than half of assaults are committed by psychiatric patients. Illicit drugs and alcohol also are also risk factors; half of emergency physicians report that at least half of all assaults are committed by people seeking drugs or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

ER Safety Directly Affects Patient Satisfaction

The rise in ER workplace violence has both immediate and long-term consequences for hospitals. Immediate consequences of workplace violence in healthcare include:

  • tying up resources, resulting in delays in urgent care
  • failure to provide care, leading to reduced patient satisfaction
  • increased need for workers’ compensation and paid time off

To provide adequate care, hospital administrations must prioritize ER safety. Doing so protects staff members as well as the hospital’s bottom line. Providers who feel safe can provide effective care, which helps cultivate high levels of patient satisfaction. In fact, an ER’s efficiency is directly linked to the patient experience. An optimized emergency department allows for improved patient flow, better patient safety, and enhanced clinical quality. High patient satisfaction scores allow the hospital to effectively reach its financial, clinical, and operational goals. 

How to Make ERs Safer

Hospital safety plan

Hospital safety plan

Several concrete steps can be taken to make ER staff safer:

  • Start with a realistic picture; comprehensive ER assessments identify shortcomings.
  • Make ongoing staff training a priority; once-yearly training is insufficient.
  • Emphasize effective communication techniques; listen to patients and families.
  • Know when to call for backup; encourage staff to adhere to security protocols. 

Each of these elements should be present in any hospital safety plan. It is crucial to address potential safety issues immediately and to give staff the tools and training they need to deal with potentially violent patients and family members. Taking these steps is an essential aspect of keeping providers happy and healthy.

Wearable Technology Creates a Climate of Safety in ERs

Effective technologies designed to create a climate of safety can also help protect ER staff from incidents of workplace violence. According to hospital staffing experts, hospitals seeking to improve ER safety should keep extensive records of incidents of workplace violence in order to respond effectively to them in the future. The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system features an analytics dashboard that gathers and displays detailed information about any incident. This data can inform administrative ER safety decisions about how best to distribute resources.

The CrisisAlert system features a mobile panic button equipped with the following features that facilitate ER safety:

  • One-button activation discreetly and immediately calls first responders for help.
  • Location accuracy delivers floor- and room-level information across an entire campus.
  • Emergency information is immediately transmitted via audio and visual notifications.
  • The system is easy to install and requires no alteration to physical structures or systems.

The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system features wearable panic buttons for every ER staff member. These are discreet badges worn along with staff members’ ID placards, enabling staff to call for help from anywhere on a hospital campus. With CrisisAlert, providers are not obligated to leave the room or use an intercom (or their own raised voice) to call for help. Staff members can discreetly call for backup without interrupting patient care—and without causing further alarm to family members or patients. The tools that CrisisAlert offers are critical to any hospital safety plan that seeks to keep ER staff safe and productive.

CENTEGIX is the leader in incident response solutions. Our CrisisAlert platform is the fastest and easiest way for staff to call for help in any emergency, from the everyday to the extreme. CENTEGIX creates safer spaces by innovating technology to empower and protect people, and leaders nationwide trust our safety solutions to provide peace of mind. To learn more about CENTEGIX, visit