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Risk Management

Strategies to Mitigate Violence Against Healthcare Workers

Workers in the healthcare industry experience the highest rates of injuries and are five times more likely to be injured than workers overall. Interventions to prevent these incidents can protect healthcare staff, patients and visitors.

July 18, 2022

Workplace violence has been an emerging trend within the healthcare industry for many years. To the detriment of caregivers in the industry, this has only increased throughout the pandemic. The World Health Organization indicates that between 8% and 38% of healthcare workers are victims of physical violence at some point in their careers.

“Healthcare facilities continue to face a number of challenges, particularly those that are understaffed. Care for patients has become increasingly difficult, and with the increased threat of workplace violence, it is understandable why more continue to burn out, leaving the industry altogether,” said Alleen Wilson, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “With growing concerns around employee safety, the responsibility falls on hospitals to protect their workers through measures such as on-going audits, workplace violence prevention programs, active shooter training, de-escalation methods and visitor restrictions.”

Types of violence in the healthcare industry involved the following:

  • Patient to Staff (accounts for around 80% of incidents)
  • Visitor/Family to Staff Violence
  • Staff-to-Staff Violence/Harassment
  • Physician or Third Party Professional to Staff Violence
  • Stranger/Non-Employee to Staff Violence

These are a few considerations and best practices to keep in mind when analyzing a workplace violence program’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Management commitment and employee participation. Leadership should provide full support for developing comprehensive programs in conjunction with employee involvement.
  • Worksite analysis and hazard identification of high-risk areas. A step-by-step assessment should be conducted involving a team that consists of managers, supervisors and employees. The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have helpful checklists and tools that can be utilized to help support assessments and audits.
  • Hazard prevention and control. Following the worksite analysis, take appropriate steps to control identified hazards.
  • Staff training and education. Focus on reiterating written policies, procedures and training such as de-escalation and self-defense.
  • Job hazard analysis. Identify hazards and their likeness to occur with a focus on procedures and operations connected to specific positions.
  • Recordkeeping and program evaluation. This is important in identifying trends and patterns of assaults that could be prevented or reduced through appropriate risk control measures. Consistent evaluation is necessary to determine the effectiveness of programs.
  • Pre-employment background screening. A thorough check can pull criminal court records, driving records and more that can identify red flags in an applicant.
  • Patient-specific proactive prevention. When possible, obtaining records of a patient’s violent history can prepare for them, particularly where a patient may be transferred to a new facility.
  • Have law enforcement numbers readily available with written criteria. Coordinating with state and local law enforcement can provide much-needed support in violent situations.