Modern Healthcare: 2011 Violent Year for US Healthcare
2011 on track to be most violent year for U.S. hospitals
Experts offer suggestions for how to boost staff safety
October 20, 2011
This year is on track to be the most violent year on record in U.S. hospitals, underscoring a growing challenge for health care workers and hospital leaders, Modern Healthcare reports.
In the first half of 2011, the Joint Commission recorded 23 violent incidents at hospitals and long term-care facilities. At that pace, 2011 will exceed the record of 42 incidents reported in 2008.
Meanwhile, 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that RNs are three times more likely to be assaulted on the job than the average U.S. worker. That places RNs at higher risk of assault than taxi drivers and bartenders, Modern Healthcare reports.
According to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) President Jim Stankevich, hospitals attract visitors who are mentally unstable because of medical conditions or drug misuse. In addition, patients often have emotional outbursts in hospital waiting rooms, as overcrowding and triage delays can increase wait times, Modern Healthcare reports.
Meanwhile, Ana Pujols-McKee, the executive vice president and chief medical officer for the Joint Commission, notes that the economic recession and high unemployment may have led to increased stress levels among U.S. residents and thus higher hospital violence rates.
How can hospitals curtail violence?
Although the Joint Commission requires hospitals to perform risk assessments and establish security plans, experts say implementing additional security measures can further reduce violence in health care settings, Modern Healthcare reports.
A soon-to-be-released survey of Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) members found that zero-tolerance violence policies and affirmative support for incident reporting are associated with less violence, Modern Healthcare reports.
Meanwhile, some hospitals have implemented training programs to keep their staff members safe. For example, Vanderbilt University Medical Center officials provide day-long training sessions for ED workers that teach verbal de-escalation techniques and physical self-defense tactics. The hospital also has installed metal detectors and armed guards in the ED.
In addition, ENA President AnnMarie Papa suggested that nurses borrow techniques from firefighters or paramedics when confronted with a potentially violent situation. “The first thing that they do, before they do anything, is they assess the scene for safety and they assure that things seem safe before they go in,” Papa said. “We in health care need to take a page out of that book, and learn how to assure that a scene is safe, and (ask) where are our risks?”