How Hospitals Can Prevent Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can occur in any industry or field. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, hospital workers face a particularly high risk for violence on-the-job. Fortunately, hospital administrators and other professionals in nurse leadership positions can take steps to reduce the chance of workplace violence and effectively address any incidents that occur.

Understanding Workplace Violence

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines workplace violence as any violent act directed toward workers on duty, including nurses, doctors, and unlicensed personnel. Examples of violent acts include:

  • Verbal threats
  • Written threats
  • Physical assault

These acts may be perpetrated by other workers, patients, or visitors. The CDC reports that these incidents most commonly occur in geriatric units, waiting rooms, emergency rooms and psychiatric wards, but they may occur in any area of the hospital or parking lot.

Preventing Workplace Violence

According to Fierce Healthcare, hospitals may be held responsible for the effects of workplace violence if they don't take steps to prevent violence from occurring. In fact, a hospital in Brooklyn, New York, was recently fined $78,000 for failing to take the proper action to prevent violence against its employees. For this reason, preventative measures are essential for all hospitals. Below are some hospital safety tips administrators and leaders can use to reduce the chance of workplace violence.

1. Recognize the Risk Factors

The CDC names the following risk factors for workplace violence:

  • Poor lighting
  • Unrestricted movement of visitors
  • Access to firearms
  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Lack of preventative policies and staff training
  • Inadequate security
  • Poor environmental design
  • Working alone
  • Overcrowding
  • Uncomfortable waiting areas
  • Long wait times
  • Transporting patients
  • Short-staffed units
  • Working with volatile people

Identifying potential risk factors will allow policymakers to tailor their efforts to the areas of greatest need as they work to prevent workplace violence.

2. Train Employees

All workers in the hospital should be trained to recognize the signs of potential violence in the workplace and resolve conflicts quickly when they occur. If conflicts cannot be resolved, employees should be instructed to remove themselves from the situation, call security and report the incident to management immediately.

3. Exercise Control Over Interactions

Hospital administrators should use various strategies, such as card-controlled access, to restrict the movement of patients and their visitors throughout the hospital. If possible, staff members should never be required to work alone, especially in high-stress areas or with volatile patients. In addition, staff members should have access to private restrooms and elevators.

4. Provide Physical Protection

To reduce the risk of violent assault, furniture in waiting rooms and other areas accessible to the public should be arranged so that it cannot be used easily as a weapon. Nurses' stations should be enclosed for protection, and reception areas should be designed with shatterproof glass. Emergency exits should also be available throughout the hospital.

5. Install Adequate Lighting

Poor lighting is a significant risk factor for violence. Ensuring that all areas of the hospital and parking lot are well-lit will reduce the risk of violent incidents.

6. Implement Security Measures

Security escorts should be available to take workers and visitors to the parking lot after dark. In addition, security devices, such as cameras and metal detectors, should be installed throughout the hospital. Furthermore, administrators should install monitoring systems for security cameras, as well as one or more alarm systems for different types of emergencies.

7. Prevent Frustration

To prevent frustration among patients and visitors, hospital administrators should take steps to reduce wait times. Because long wait times are sometimes unavoidable, administrators should also design waiting areas that are comfortable and provide diversions for patients and visitors, such as vending machines, magazines, and television.

8. Keep Records

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to keep records of their violence prevention programs and to document trends in violence. Hospital administrators should not only comply with this rule, but they should also evaluate their records on a regular basis and use the information contained in them to improve the effectiveness of the prevention program.

Responding to Workplace Violence

Even with all of the best preventative measures in place, workplace violence may still occur. When an incident occurs, administrators should:

  • Collect relevant information about the incident by interviewing involved parties and any witnesses.
  • Address the direct consequences of the incident, such as injuries or property damage, quickly and effectively.
  • Identify any risk factors or weaknesses that may have contributed to the incident.
  • Take steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future by addressing any and all contributing factors.

Ensuring a safe workplace is vitally important to create an environment where nurses can thrive. In the long run, the feeling of wellbeing will translate to better care of the patients.