The safety and security of caregivers in healthcare settings are paramount. To provide quality care, nurses, nursing assistants, doctors, and other hospital employees must work in a secure environment. Unfortunately, their safety is under threat. Incidents of workplace violence in healthcare have dramatically increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the US Attorney General’s office, “violence against hospital employees has markedly increased—and there is no sign it is receding. Studies indicate that 44% of nurses report experiencing physical violence and 68% report experiencing verbal abuse in recent years.” Remarkably, violence against healthcare workers is 12 times higher than the rest of the US workforce. Overall, 75% of all workplace violence incidents that happen each year in the US involve healthcare professionals.
The American Nurses Association defines workplace violence as “physically and psychologically damaging actions that occur in the workplace or while on duty.” Workplace violence includes direct physical assaults (with or without weapons), written or verbal threats, physical or verbal harassment, and homicide. Even before the pandemic-era uptick in violent incidents in healthcare settings, the 2018 US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that healthcare workers accounted for 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence. When healthcare workers are absent from work as a result of these incidents, the quality of care is affected. These outcomes contribute to burnout and stress-related illness among hospital employees, resulting in staff shortages, lower-quality care, and negative outcomes for both employees and patients.
Caregivers who work in mental health care facilities are at particularly high risk of experiencing workplace violence. A 2017 analysis of studies of workplace violence in mental healthcare settings revealed the following:
- Between 24% and 80% of healthcare workers in acute psychiatric units have been assaulted by a patient.
- Verbal assaults affected 46–78.6% of healthcare workers.
- Threats affected 43–78.6%.
- Sexual harassment affected 9.5–37.2%.
According to Mental Health America’s 2021 assessment of mental health in America, “as COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, it not only resulted in greater morbidity and mortality in terms of physical health but also had disastrous effects on the mental health of the nation.” The nation’s entire population was traumatized by the risk of contracting COVID-19, and changes to our physical and social environments have led to high rates of isolation and loneliness, financial hardship, housing and food insecurity, and interpersonal violence. The result is a nationwide mental health crisis.
Under these conditions, mental healthcare providers are under even greater pressure to provide care to people in crisis within high-risk environments. Hospitals and healthcare settings face an urgent need for increased security measures that keep employees safer and demonstrate these institutions’ support for their staff.
Solutions for Reducing Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings
The uptick in violent incidents has highlighted the immense stressors that caregivers face and the need for increased attention to security. Ensuring caregivers’ safety is crucial, but doing so in complex hospital environments is a challenge. For hospitals to go beyond ad-hoc COVID-19-era fixes, decision-makers must invest in the safety of their employees over the long term.
Hospitals’ design features can be an essential element in making employees safer. While an overly aggressive security presence can be off-putting to patients and visitors, “invisible” security measures incorporated into a hospital’s layout and design can be highly effective. For example, elements like double-action door hinges are barely noticeable but ensure rooms are barricade-proof. Panic buttons or on-person technology—in addition to or instead of wall-mounted technology—can also be inconspicuously incorporated. These on-person security measures give staff peace of mind that they can always call for help.
Safety Solutions Protect Caregivers
Many hospitals respond to workplace violence with direct and determined action. These measures include raising risk awareness, better and more transparent reporting, wider information-sharing, and investments in security, surveillance, and training. Nurses are organizing and advocating for increased security measures in the workplace by lobbying state legislators to draft and vote in favor of more workplace protection laws.
Wearable emergency buttons are an effective workplace safety solution being implemented by hospital systems across the country. At one Missouri hospital, assaults by patients tripled between 2019 and 2020. This raised a red flag for hospital leadership that nurses and employees needed extra protection. They elected to install a security system that includes wearable emergency buttons. In the absence of this security measure, nurses had to use their cell phones to call security or scream for help. The hospital’s communications director says the wearable emergency button, “is an extra easy way [nurses] can get an immediate response.”
CrisisAlert: Responding to Workplace Violence in Healthcare
A wearable emergency button provides healthcare workers with a discreet and instantaneous way to call for help. The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system features a wearable panic button that provides an extra measure of security for caregivers and other hospital employees. Because
the fear of not being safe at work increases stress and damages morale and organizational productivity, hospital administrators should seek to ensure their employees’ physical safety as well as their sense of physical security on the job. Wearable emergency buttons serve this function.
The CrisisAlert system can de-escalate incidents of violence in healthcare settings. In these settings, de-escalation is defined as “a combination of strategies, techniques, and methods intended to reduce a patient’s agitation and aggression.” De-escalation has many positive consequences. These include:
- preventing violence
- avoiding the use of restraint
- reducing patient anger
- maintaining safety for staff and patients
By calling for help with a wearable emergency button, healthcare workers have access to a discreet but instantaneous way to summon help to their precise location. CrisisAlert helps create a culture where employees feel protected and empowered in the moments that matter.
While hospitals are becoming increasingly aware of the need for increased security measures, changes to hospital design and infrastructure may not be immediately possible. CENTEGIX CrisisAlert can be installed without making alterations to existing physical structures or electrical wiring, and installation of the CrisisAlert system can be completed with minimal disruption to patient care. Once installed, the system delivers 100% full-campus coverage for facility staff. Whether they are providing patient care, walking to the parking garage, or working in the emergency bay, employees can initiate an alert by simply pressing the button on their CrisisAlert badge.
The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system is a practical and easy-to-use deterrent to violence in healthcare settings response to violence in healthcare settings. CrisisAlert enables hospitals and other institutions to decrease emergency response times and nurture a culture of safety. When caregivers and staff can receive immediate assistance during a violent incident, they feel supported. This sense of security contributes to job satisfaction and makes the retention of healthcare workers more likely. The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system is a valuable asset in protecting and retaining nurses and other healthcare professionals.
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 www.centegix.com.