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Patient and Provider Safety

Violence in health care settings has the highest instance of workplace injury of any industry. Of nearly 25,000 annual workplace assaults, it is estimated that roughly 75% occur in health care settings toward health care workers.

While workplace violence in health care settings poses a significant risk for employees, patients can also be at risk since they can end up in harm’s way from other upset patients or irrate workers. Patient and provider safety should be a top priority in every health care setting so let’s discover what workplace violence is, types of workplace violence, and how to create a prevent plan moving forward.

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What Is Workplace Violence

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence is defined as “violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persona at work or on duty.” Even without physical injury, threats, abuse, hostility, harassment, and verbal violence should be taken seriously as they could potentially escalate to physical violence.

There are a few factors that can contribute to a higher risk of workplace violence, including:

  • High worker turnover
  • Inadequate security and mental health personnel on-site
  • Lack of policies and staff training for recognizing and managing escalating hostile and assaultive behaviors from patients, clients, visitors, or staff

Types of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence in health care settings are broken down into four types, which are:

  • Perpetrators with no association to the workplace or an employee
  • Perpetrator is a customer or patient of the workplace or an employee
  • Perpetrator is a current or former employee of the workplace
  • Perpetrator has a personal relationship with an employee but not the workplace

The most common type of workplace violence is the second option, violence perpetrated by a customer or patient of the workplace or an employee, and should be an important focus in every health care setting as it impacts both patient and provider safety.

Examples of Workplace Violence in Health Care Settings

Workplace violence in health care settings is different in every situation but it can look like:

  • Verbal threats or physical attacks by patients
  • Distraught family members who become abusive or evolve into an active shooter situation
  • Gang violence in the emergency department
  • Domestic disputes that play out in the workplace
  • Coworker bullying

When broken down, workplace violence is perpetrated by different people, including: Patients (80%); Other client or customer (12%); Student (3%); Coworker (3%); Other persons (1%); Assailant/suspect/inmate (1%).

Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

There are many ways to prevent workplace violence in health care settings to ensure both patient and provider safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a detailed guide for preventing workplace violence through violence prevention programs.

In implementing a workplace violence prevention program, there are five crucial building blocks:

  • Management commitment and employee participation — Recognize that workplace violence is a safety and health hazard.
  • Worksite analysis and hazard identification — Work with all employees to identify and assess workplace violence hazards.
  • Hazard prevention and control — Select and implement effective controls to eliminate or reduce hazards.
  • Safety and health training — Train on risk factors, early recognition, and what to do in violent situations.
  • Recordkeeping and program evaluation — Record injuries, incidents, assaults, hazards, and training to determine if your program is effective.

Follow these steps to implement your own workplace violence prevention plan. You’ll be able to work toward increased patient and provider safety and decrease instances of workplace violence in health care settings.