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How U.S. Hospitals are Combating Workplace Violence


Incidents of serious workplace violence are four times more likely in the healthcare industry than in private industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Nurses, doctors, and first responders live with the daily threat of violence, especially in emergency rooms and other critical care units. However, some hospitals and nurses’ unions are trying to put a stop to the violence. Facilities are introducing new security measures that are designed to keep healthcare workers safe on the job. Learn more about these new initiatives and whether or not they’re keeping nurses safe from harm.

The Healthcare Violence Epidemic

Those that work in healthcare understand the risks of the job. A new poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians shows that nearly half of emergency physician respondents have been physically assaulted. More than 60% of respondents said the assault occurred within the last year.

Patients account for 80% of serious violent incidents reported in healthcare settings, but these incidents can also result from co-workers and a patient’s loved ones. Nurses often spend the most time with patients compared to other healthcare providers, making them a likely target of workplace violence. Studies show violence against nurses is pervasive in the healthcare industry.

  • 21% of registered nurses and nursing students reported being physically assaulted – and  over 50% verbally abused – within a 12-month period.
  • 12% of emergency department nurses experienced physical violence – and 59% experienced verbal abuse – within a seven-day period.

But are healthcare facilities doing enough to keep workers safe?

Many facilities emphasize escalation techniques as a way of curbing workplace violence, but these may not be enough to protect workers from it. In fact, some nurses report being blamed for not deescalating these kinds of incidents after reporting them to their nursing managers. These techniques largely leave nurses on their own when it comes to dealing with workplace violence. There has to be a better way.

How to Combat Workplace Violence

With workplace violence rampant among healthcare facilities, some U.S. hospitals are trying to change the narrative. The California Nurses Association is lobbying for a law that would give OSHA more authority when it comes to enforcing hospital workplace safety. Let’s look at some of the ways hospitals are reducing incidents of workplace violence.

Metal Detectors

Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic has installed metal detectors inside all entrances to the building. Patients and their loved ones now must pass inspection before being admitted into the facility, including patients on stretchers and others that have been seriously injured. Officials say they’ve collected hundreds of weapons over the years, limiting the amount of damage a patient can inflict on their care providers.

Wireless Panic Buttons for Nurses

Cleveland Clinic has also installed wireless panic buttons on nurse ID badges, so nurses can call for help quickly and quietly if a patient becomes unruly.

Officers in Plain Clothes

Other facilities have invested in additional security measures, such as having more officers on the floor, including several in civilian clothing, so they don’t bring attention to themselves.

Additional Safety Cameras

Facilities have also added additional security cameras to better monitor every aspect of the workplace, including hospital rooms, hallways, and waiting rooms.

While these initiatives are a step in the right direction, a security camera and additional officers may not be enough to protect nurses from violence on the floor. Even if help arrives within a few minutes, the nurse may be mentally scarred or injured in the meantime.

In addition to these safety measures, OSHA recommends the following:

  • Avoid working alone, especially when dealing with patients that have a history of violence or those that are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Keep escape routes open and clear, so nurses can leave the area quickly if a patient becomes violent.
  • Invest in proper lighting throughout the work environment, including hallways and doorways.
  • Avoid understaffing, especially in high-risk areas like emergency rooms.
  • Restrict the public’s access to the emergency room or other treatment centers.

Facility managers and nurses should keep these initiatives in mind as they go about addressing issues of workplace violence. Nurses and administrators need to work together if the industry is going to address these issues. Everyone deserves to come to work and earn a living without living in fear.




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