This article appears in the July issue of Patient Safety Monitor Journal.
By Brian Ward
Can you take a punch? How do you react to being backed into a corner and screamed at? Can you keep a level head when someone spits at, grabs, slaps, or pushes you? Have you been held at knifepoint before?
If a job interviewer asked you these questions, you’d probably bolt for the door unless you were applying to be an MMA fighter. Sadly, the interview in this case is for a nursing position.
By now it shouldn’t be shocking news that cases of workplace violence (WPV) are distressingly high in healthcare. On May 12, 2017, two nurses and a police chief were shot and killed at a nursing home in Ohio. The next day there was an unrelated situation in Illinois, where a hospitalized prison inmate held two nurses hostage at gunpoint before he was killed by police. These are just two examples of violence against healthcare workers. What makes them stand out is that they both happened during National Nurses Week.
More than 70% of significant WPV injuries occur in healthcare and social service settings. That number has been on the rise, and the victims are primarily healthcare workers, according to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation.
The IAHSS reported a 4% rise in hospital assaults, from 7.8 assaults per 100 beds in 2014 to 8.1 in 2015. The Foundation also reported that 89% of healthcare WPV cases were Type 2, violence directed toward employees. A 2014 survey found that 76% of nurses have experienced verbal or physical abuse from patients and visitors.
“Incidents of workplace violence are increasing in many healthcare settings, but hospital workers are especially vulnerable to aggressive behaviors,” wrote Ann Scott Blouin, RN, PhD, FACHE, The Joint Commission executive vice president, in a blog post. “It stands to reason. After all, especially for nurses or physicians, we’re the ones sometimes delivering upsetting news to patients and families. For nurses like myself, it’s a sad fact that violence has unfortunately become more common. In fact, many of The Joint Commission’s Office of Quality and Patient Safety staff are registered nurses and are all too familiar with the reality of a patient or family encounter gone awry. This often occurs in the emergency department or behavioral health, but violence is occurring in long-term care, outpatient care, and home care.”
In 2016, The Joint Commission launched the Workplace Violence Prevention Resources site to reduce WPV in healthcare. The site is one of many violence prevention resources available and is full of easy-to-use policies, procedures, guidelines, research, case studies, white papers, and toolkits on topics such as:
• Violent and criminal event preparedness and prevention
• Active shooter situations
• Workplace safety measures
• Behavioral threat management
• Emergency operations planning
• Rudeness and bullying