The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as “… any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting.”
Studies show that healthcare workers, and nurses, in particular, are at a much higher risk of encountering workplace violence than most other professions.
With so many contributing factors, there is no perfect solution for this issue. However, that doesn’t mean preventing violence in the workplace should be ignored. You can—and should—take action to protect your healthcare workers and improve your organization. The first step is recognizing workplace violence in healthcare; then you can learn how to address it.
Understanding the varying types of workplace violence is a good first step toward mitigating the larger issue. Next steps require healthcare leaders to understand the commonality of workplace violence, the elevated risk within healthcare, contributing factors, and steps you can take to reduce the issue in your facility. Addressing workplace violence through policies and procedures is just the start. Healthcare leaders should also seek supplemental protection to guarantee full-time security for campuses—more on that later.
A Growing Number of Workplace Violence Incidents
All incidents of violence–including simple assault–are on the rise. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 1.3 million nonfatal violent workplace incidents occurred annually from 2015 to 2019. Those crimes included about 979,000 simple assaults, 186,000 aggravated assaults, 53,000 rapes or sexual assaults, and 46,000 robberies per year.
Workplace violence affects millions of people yearly, and the healthcare sector is a prime example.
Elevated Risk Within Healthcare
When people think of dangerous professions, most immediately think of police officers, firefighters, or other high-risk occupations. It may be surprising to learn that hospitals are one of the most dangerous places to work. U.S. hospitals recorded 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2019. That rate translates to 5.5 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees—nearly twice the rate for private industry as a whole. Note the following statistics, which illustrate the severity of workplace violence in the healthcare sector:
- From 2016 to 2020, 207 workplace deaths occurred due to violence in the private-sector healthcare and social assistance industries.
- In 2020, 10.3 out of 10,000 full-time healthcare and social assistance workers experienced some type of workplace assault.
- The rate for nursing and personal care facility workers in 2020 was 21.8.
- In many states, being a nurse is more dangerous than being a police officer or a prison guard.
Many contributing factors influence the issue of workplace violence. Staff shortages, increased patient morbidities, violent individuals, and the absence of solid workplace violence prevention programs and regulations contribute to workplace violence against healthcare workers.
The “ripple effect” of workplace violence further exacerbates the problem. When an employee becomes a victim of workplace violence, healthcare organizations are forced to offset costs in many ways:
- Workers’ compensation
- Temporary staffing, backfilling, and overtime pay
- Turnover costs
- Decreased productivity and morale among employees
- Possible legal costs
- Decreased patient engagement
The consequences of workplace violence in healthcare settings are especially threatening due to the impact it can have on patients. Employees and caregivers subject to workplace violence can suffer from fatigue, injury, and stress. These factors increase the risk of medication errors and patient infections.
Methods for Mitigating Workplace Violence in Healthcare
Once you understand the contributing factors and elevated risk of workplace violence in healthcare, you can make strides toward mitigating the issue for your organization—and in turn, create the safe environment your staff members deserve.
An important step is to create effective policies and procedures that outline how employees are expected to react in violent situations at work. These policies typically include common types of workplace violence, discrimination, racial or sexual harassment, drug and alcohol use, and safety procedures. Another option is to implement a zero-tolerance policy, indicating to employees that no violent behavior will be tolerated. Once you have established policies and procedures to mitigate workplace violence, you can take further action to secure your healthcare organization.
Making your organization a difficult target is a great way to mitigate workplace violence. Assessing and improving existing physical security, limiting campus access for non-employees, and protecting lone workers are all ways to get ahead of workplace violence.
Utilizing the right technology can also give you an edge over workplace violence. Extra layers of security, such as security guards, surveillance cameras, and an established registration procedure for all visitors, are all ways to safeguard your healthcare organization.
Implementing effective training programs is also an effective way of mitigating workplace violence. Providing training sessions to all employees to encourage awareness and understanding of situations that can evolve into workplace violence is important—staff members must know how to recognize and respond to a violent incident.
Effective policies and risk management techniques are indispensable to healthcare organization security, staff satisfaction, and quality of care. Lawmakers also recognize the growing number of workplace violence incidents, and they continue to attempt to address the problem through legislation.
How Lawmakers are Addressing Workplace Violence in Healthcare
In 2021, the US House of Representatives passed (by a vote of 254-166) the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195).
“The bill would require employers to provide annual training and education to employees; maintain detailed records of workplace violence risk, hazard assessments, and violent incidents; and submit annual summaries of such incidents to the Secretary of Labor.”
The bill has yet to pass the Senate, but other organizations and agencies also strive for greater awareness of workplace violence.
In early 2022, The Joint Commission released its “New and Revised Workplace Violence Violence Prevention Standards for Hospitals,” deeming the new guidelines a “… major step forward toward improved quality and safety.”
The Joint Commission notes that the only federal regulation currently in place is the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which provides no specific recommendations for the management of workplace violence.
The burden of managing workplace violence risks rests primarily on the organizations themselves. Healthcare leaders can choose from an array of actions to address this prevalent risk. One way is to implement secondary security measures in addition to effective policies and procedures. Healthcare leaders can take a step toward a more secure campus by providing staff with the means to instantly call for help in any emergency by implementing CrisisAlert.
How to Supplement Your Organization’s Risk Program with CrisisAlert
Workplace violence in healthcare isn’t going away any time soon. Healthcare organizations across the United States continue to struggle with the impact of workplace violence on their staff and patients.
Providing your staff the support they need during emergencies with CrisisAlert can help create and foster a culture where people feel protected and empowered in the workplace—leading to happier employees and increased patient satisfaction.
CrisisAlert’s wearable badge provides an easy, discreet, and reliable way to support your healthcare team. Employees can easily call for help from anywhere on campus, providing a crucial opportunity for de-escalation. CrisisAlert can be installed with no alterations to physical structures or electrical wiring, and installation can be completed with minimal disruption to patient care.
Creating a secure environment for patients and staff is imperative to an organization’s viability. Visit CENTEGIX at centegix.com/healthcare to learn more about how CrisisAlert can help you protect your team and secure your healthcare organization. Because in a crisis, every second matters.