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Violence in the Healthcare Workplace | Prevention and Reporting

(Part Two of a 3-part Series on Workplace Violence)

Read Part One of the Series

At the facility level, prevention of workplace violence is a discretionary action that requires the attentiveness of the healthcare professional. They need to be aware of the surroundings and understand the rights and wrongs of patient interactions requiring early intervention. Facility policies and staff training are necessary for recognizing and managing escalating hostile and aggressive behaviors from those who may commit assaultive actions.

Preventing Workplace Violence within a Healthcare Facility

First-line prevention starts with unit and facility analysis of previous incidents and building their prevention methods on developing a plan to mitigate risk for their employees. Occupational Safety and Healthcare Administration (OSHA) lists four variables to adequately control workplace hazards, identify and evaluate control of workplace hazards, implement, and disseminate efficient controls to the hazards in the workplace, and most important of all, follow up with the prevention methods to develop higher and more efficient methods of control. (See Reference 1)

Healthcare professionals should continuously reevaluate interpersonal interaction to adequately respond in an appropriate manner to mitigate the possibility of becoming a victim. Becoming comfortable in a workplace environment takes time, developing the preventative methods to tackle the increasing rates will plateau or diminish chances of being a workplace violence victim. Victims of workplace violence often do not report due to the overwhelming schedule and workplace norms. Understanding training and implementing these daily to control a critical client interaction can be the difference in the number of workplace norms to be acceptable.

6 Steps to Protect Yourself from Workplace Violence

According to OSHA, there are six (6) steps to be taken to should you have an aggressor and need to protect yourself and your license. (See Reference 2)

  1. Try to escape the situation.
  2. Create a defensive barrier.
  3. Defend yourself, use of equal but not over exerted force.
  4. Report the incident to supervisors and authorities
  5. Take a leave of absence, use of time to emotionally cope with the traumatizing event is necessary to control anxiety of the workplace.
  6. Seek support and resources that you trust and can effectively deal with the trauma to the utmost of your ability.

Protections for Reporting Workplace Violence Incidents

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 permits and encourages states to adopt their own occupational and safety plans, the federal bill will outline a plan development standard, content in the plan, procedures, training and education of staff, record-keeping system to be implemented by each covered facility.

Generally speaking, it is improper to fire employees for reporting misconduct by other employees, see Minnesota case involving Mayo Clinic.

The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) in this case, protects all employees who are terminated as a result of reporting misconduct by other employees. Both assault, which is defined as intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension or imminent harmful or offensive contact, and battery which is defined as, intentional causation or harmful or offensive contact with another person without consent, are both covered under FCRA.

Practical Considerations

The old saying is true: “If you see something, say something.” Even if you are incorrect in reporting what you perceive to be a possibly dangerous situation, so long as your report is made in good faith your employer should take it seriously.  Today, too many people are concerned about political correctness and “not hurting someone’s feelings” and they sometimes overcompensate by not reporting serious incidents.

Things you should consider:

  1. Be alert and observe.  
  2. If you think someone is acting suspicious report it.
  3. If you know of a dangerous condition at the workplace report it. (i.e. security lights in the parking lot are…)
  4. Make sure that someone documents your report. This means in writing. If all else fails send an email to the appropriate supervisor.
  5. If your facility has a Risk Manager, meet with that person and make an incident report.
  6. Reports to law enforcement are the ultimate reporting mechanism once an incident of violence does occur.

Should you become a victim of workplace violence, there are plenty of resources available to you to accompany the physical and emotional recuperation process. Some examples of these resources include trauma-crisis counseling, stress debriefings, peer counseling, and support groups, and employee assistance programs to speak with physicians, psychologists, social workers. Qualified specialists are available to help those in need, becoming a victim in the workplace is traumatizing, recovery is essential, and helping those around you and your own well-being will reduce the workplace stress upon return to care.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7140010/
  2. https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/osha3148.pdf
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