How Hospitals and Healthcare Systems Can Curb Violence Against Staff
By Terri Mock
Terri Mock, MS, MBA is chief strategy and marketing officer of Rave Mobile Safety of Framingham, MA.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities are seeing an uptick in violence, no doubt attributable in part to frustration caused by the pandemic. Healthcare workers, lauded as frontline heroes 18 months ago, are now at higher risk of violent incidents. For instance, the National Nurses United found that 31% of hospital nurses have faced a small or significant increase in workplace violence, up from 22% in March 2021.
To prevent harm and abuse in the workplace, hospital and healthcare leaders must re-evaluate emergency response plans, adopt better mass communication tools, and support staff more effectively in dealing with abusive or potentially violent patients and aggressive visitors. These interventions are essential if we aim to keep healthcare professionals, especially nurses, from leaving the field.
On the emergency response front, leaders must ensure their teams are prepared and aware of the protocols that exist for dealing with violence in the building. If specific emergency response plans don’t exist for addressing violence, those should be created as soon as possible. If they exist within a bigger collection of emergency procedures and protocols, it’s worth considering when they were last updated and how easy it is for workers to access that information in the midst of a chaotic situation.
Emergency plans should be readily available and tailored to individual roles across the hospital or healthcare network. For larger organizations, it often makes sense to put emergency plans in a central digital repository that staff can access through mobile apps and online portals. That way, workers don’t have to chase down physical documents or navigate an unwieldy file system. They can pull up what they need, look up phone numbers, and take action according to their unique role.
Regarding communication tools, it’s time to go mobile and modern. Hospitals and healthcare systems today need to notify staff of critical incidents wherever they are located. Modern communication platforms enable staff, patients, and even visitors to collaborate in real time using two-way mass notification systems across multiple channels, including SMS, email and voice calls, anonymous reporting, push notifications, audience segmentation, and more.
These platforms also provide mobile apps for personal safety and secure communications. In an emergency, nurses or other healthcare professionals could easily alert security for assistance, give helpful details, and provide ongoing updates, if needed.
Finally, leaders must empower healthcare workers to improve their personal safety. We’re already suffering through a country-wide nursing shortage and burnout. By 2030, we may be short over one million RNs, according to a study conducted by Good Call.
Administrators have to educate staff on the importance of reporting violent incidents and follow through in taking those reports seriously. To carry out their responsibility for duty of care, healthcare organizations need the ability to locate and check on the wellbeing of their employees. Technology can be helpful here to solicit a healthcare worker’s real-time location and status when they may need help.
The ability to locate and contact a mobile, remote, and traveling healthcare workforce can be accomplished using a geo-polling feature available in a mass notification system. Healthcare organizations can require information from their workers with simple poll questions via SMS, email, and voice calls. The responses are collected to ensure every individual’s status and location is made known.
Should a nurse answer that they are in danger or need assistance, security personnel can identify who they are and where they are located, then trigger two-way communications to coordinate a response and facilitate their safety. A follow-up geo-poll can be sent to individuals who did not respond or to obtain further information to direct the appropriate response to their needs. With geo-polling, every healthcare worker’s status and location are known so you can protect and keep them safe.
Healthcare has always been a high-risk industry, and events over the past 18 months have exacerbated many of the challenges healthcare workers face. By updating emergency response plans, adopting better communication technology and giving staff more ways to report violence, leaders can protect the personal safety, decrease risk, and improve conditions for those on the front line.