Just 40% of Healthcare Workers Think Their Workplace is Well Prepared for an Active Assailant

By Carol Davis

Violent patients are a top safety concern for nurses, reveals a recent survey commissioned to better understand healthcare worker concerns.

Of the nurse respondents, 81% are concerned about patients becoming violent, which is understandable given that 59% of them reported a dangerous event at their workplace, according to the Healthcare Worker Safety Survey conducted by Motorola Solutions, which specializes in video security and access control.

The study, fielded between December 2022 and January 2023, analyzed answers from 500 respondents working in the healthcare field, including doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrators across the United States.

Hospital and healthcare system employees generally feel safe going to work each day, with 68% of healthcare workers stating they feel extremely or very safe while at work and 89% saying that they trust their workplaces to keep them safe in the event of an emergency.

But personal safety still remains a top-of-mind concern for many healthcare workers—so much so that last year the American Hospital Association wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General asking for legislation to better protect healthcare workers from violent attacks.

Key findings of the survey included:

  • Some of the biggest safety concerns healthcare workers have include patient(s) becoming violent (72%), the impacts of burnout/mental health (61%), and active assailants (42%).
  • Only 40% of respondents believe their workplace is extremely or very well prepared to manage an active assailant scenario.
  • More than half (54%) of healthcare workers noted that they would be at least somewhat likely to quit if a violent incident unfolded in their workplace.
  • Healthcare workers perceive staffing shortages to be one of the biggest safety concerns because they believe that loss of personnel will negatively affect the mental health of remaining workers and lead to job burnout (77%) and it will affect patient safety and care (72%).

Mental health

Widespread mental health challenges and job burnout also concerned survey respondents. More than half of them (56%) indicated that their or their colleagues’ mental health is generally worse now than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses responded that mental health is “extremely” worse now (24%) while, comparatively, physicians said that mental health is at the same level now that it was during the height of the pandemic (31%).

Healthcare employees are also increasingly concerned about their patients’ mental health and the effect this may have on worker safety, the survey indicated. Almost three-quarters (71%) of healthcare workers said that patients’ mental health impacts their or their colleagues’ safety and well-being while at work.

Safety notifications

Healthcare employees would feel safer if more interconnected communication platforms were used for emergency notification, training was prioritized, and safety guidance was centralized, the survey noted.

Specifically, respondents shared that they would feel more prepared if their workplace: utilized panic button technology or another 911-alerting system (55%); conducted safety procedure training (51%); used customized text and/or phone alerts (48%); made safety plans digital and easy to access for all staff (46%); and offered a safety app with resources, plans, and emergency contacts (44%).

Those who work in hospitals or health systems must feel confident in their level of personal safety, despite a rise in violence, the survey concluded.

By taking into account healthcare employee safety concerns, consistently conducting safety training, and adopting new communication technology, health systems “can ensure that their staff is able to render the best possible patient care without unnecessary, unnerving distractions,” the survey said.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.