Violence against health care workers is the topic of the Sentinel Event Alert, Issue 59, published by The Joint Commission. The issue states that according to OSHA, about 75% of annually reported workplace assaults occur in health care or social service settings. It is also reported that most of these physical and verbal aggressions come from patients and their visitors. The are many factors that are cited to contribute to the problem including long wait times, lack of community mental health care, inadequate security, and a lack of organizational policies and training regarding aggressive behavior. In response to this serious problem, The Joint Commission discusses seven ways to address violence against health care workers.
- The definition of workplace violence should be clarified, and a mechanism for reporting incidents should be put into place. The importance of reporting all violence should be emphasized.
- Resources such as counseling should be provided to support those who were exposed to workplace violence. It is important to follow up with both the victim and any witnesses.
- Data should be collected from several sources and should be reported to a centralized database. From there, data should be analyzed for trends.
- Along the same line as the above suggestion, it is important to discover patterns in reports to prioritize where intervention is needed.
- Developing interventions that are evidence based and cost-effective is a crucial step towards preventing workplace violence. The Joint Commission further suggests that these initiatives should be tailored to problems at the local level such as within specific health care units.
- Staff should be trained in how to respond to emergency codes, as well as self-defense and de-escalation to protect themselves and others. The Joint Commission also cites the fact that experts suggest that firearms should be prohibited at hospitals unless used by law enforcement officers.
- It is important to evaluate the success of initiatives to reduce workplace violence. For example, trends in current reports can be compared with those filed before the initiative.
An ethics hotline such as Red Flag Reporting can be used to implement many of the above suggestions. With Red Flag Reporting, clients, such as health care workers, are able to report concerns anonymously to a centralized database. Investigators are given access to reports and can collaborate with one another to determine further steps. With the new multi-period charts feature, data from all reports by an organization is collected and charted to make finding trends easier than ever. In turn, clients can trust that interventions will be created to address trends that are backed by evidence. Take the first steps towards addressing workplace violence with Red Flag Reporting.