When it comes to on-the-job safety for employees, health care is the least safe industry. That means statistically, health care workers are more likely to be physically or verbally assaulted on the job than police officers or prison guards. And children’s hospitals are no exception. Pediatrics ranks third among the most dangerous units for staff, following closely behind psychiatric units and adult emergency departments, according to Press Ganey. The issue affects every clinician and employee within each children’s hospital: 84% of all pediatric staff have experienced a violent situation at work.
Keeping staff safe is fundamental to the business of health care, contributing significantly to whether or not health organizations are able to retain staff, weather changing financial conditions, increase patient satisfaction, and deliver high-quality care outcomes. At a time when attrition is affecting hospitals and health systems nationwide, perceived safety of the work environment is the number one factor affecting nurses’ decisions to stay in their current role today.
Given the complex nature of this challenge, preventing and de-escalating workplace violence requires an approach that includes a collaborative, community-driven strategy along with effective technological support. Here are the three imperatives for a tech-enabled safety strategy for health care organizations.
Prioritize prevention and de-escalation
Preventing workplace violence requires intervening long before it escalates, rather than responding in the moment: 62% of nurses say active monitoring of nurse distress and proactive outreach is an important initiative needed in the workplace to support their well-being.
Employing security officers and implementing video surveillance are obvious aspects of health system safety employed by nearly all health systems, but taking these measures alone cannot preempt violence. To complement a holistic security strategy, technology can enable early intervention and conflict de-escalation.
Effective staff protection requires technology, like the Commure Strongline device, that enables early intervention and de-escalation support. Triggered by a discreet, individually assigned wearable badge, any worker is empowered to instantly call for help to their real-time location. Just as with masks and gowns, this device should be a core component of their personal protection equipment.
Operationally, staff should be encouraged to use the badge “early and often” at the first signs of distress to maximize the known benefits of de-escalation. When pressed, the Commure Strongline device instantly notifies stakeholders, including proximate colleagues, subscribed staff and security personnel. This enables nearby team members to intervene immediately with de-escalation support. Because violent situations often move over time, the system monitors the situation in real time as it evolves, from the first sign of duress through incident resolution.
Cover all staff in any facility
In hospitals, workplace violence can occur anywhere—it’s not just limited to the emergency department or behavioral health units. All health care workers deserve to feel safe, no matter their role, yet 92% of health care workers experienced or witnessed workplace violence just this past April alone. In Press Ganey’s latest data, pediatric units experienced some of the highest rates of assaults.
Everyone—from administrators and environmental services to clinicians and cross-departmental staff members—contributes to the patient experience and, ultimately, care outcomes. Just as patient safety can’t be maximized without supportive technology, such as bar code administration and drug interaction testing, workforce safety requires technology support. Health systems require a tech-enabled strategy that covers all care environments, and all staff, to provide protection and support.
Track and report critical data to boost prevention measures
Even with reports like Press Ganey’s, our picture of workplace violence in health care and its effects are incomplete: Only 30% of workplace violence incidents are reported. Understanding where threats occur and which staff members consistently feel unsafe is crucial for mitigating violence in the workplace for the long term, and it’s a new Joint Commission regulatory standard. To capture those learnings, an optimal staff safety solution must include a robust dispatch dashboard that’s regularly updated with reporting capabilities to understand trends and insights for a future-proofed approach to safety.
Safety shouldn’t come with sacrifice. Health care organizations must be empowered by their workplace safety solutions with comprehensive and always-on service, support and reporting. With real-time data such as duress alarm and incident location tracking, hospital leaders can more accurately and proactively protect the entire organization.
Taking action against workplace violence in the hospital
There is strong and growing demand for the industry to take action. With the introduction of legislation like The Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act, coupled with leading health care regulators such as CMS, Joint Commission and OSHA, now is the time to take action. These recommendations emphasize the strong connection between staff safety, workplace violence prevention, and patient safety, recognizing there is still much to do.
By establishing comprehensive safety strategies supported by effective technology, children’s hospitals can operate as a united front to combat workplace violence and restore “care” into the health care environment for all clinicians and staff.
If you’re ready to take action against workplace violence, learn more about purpose-built technology that can help keep your workforce safe.