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Uptrend in workplace violence discussed by Readiness Associates at Nevada healthcare event

By Bruce Brauninger, COO, Readiness Associates

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In her Sept. 12 presentation at a healthcare conference in Stateline, Nevada, the national field operations director of Readiness Associates cited some eye-opening statistics about trends in workplace violence.

Kathleen Pearson noted that healthcare workers are 16 times more likely to experience a violent attack than any other service workers. Seventy percent of the non-fatal injuries from workplace violence occur in the healthcare sector. The average cost of a violence-related litigation in healthcare is $250,000. The total cost annually is $4.3 billion. Researchers found that 78 percent of emergency medicine practitioners experienced at least one act of workplace violence in the last 12 months, with 75 percent reporting verbal threats and 21 percent reporting physical assaults.

Other topics covered by Pearson included: defining workplace violence, identifying risk factors, recent incidents, warning signs, violence indicators, stressors that affect behavior, coping methods that employers can introduce, policies and protocols, event protocols, workplace safety tips, and what should be done after an event.

Pearson, who has more than three decades of experience with the subject, addressed the 2018 Nevada Health Care Association (NVHCA) “Quality in Action” Annual Convention at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at Lake Tahoe.

Combating workplace violence

Pearson told the consortium that combating workplace violence requires education, awareness, prevention, response, support, and re-evaluation. She cited the following examples of workplace violence: screaming and swearing, verbal threats, stalking, insubordination, property damage, harassment, pushing and shoving, bullying, physical assault, shooting, and homicide.

According to Pearson, healthcare workplace violence can be broken down into four types: stranger on employee; patient, visitor or family on employee; worker on worker; or partner on partner.

Four key touch-points

“Whenever any healthcare facility considers the topic of workplace violence,” said Pearson, “either because they’re dealing with it directly, or feeling the threat of it, or recognize that seemingly smooth-running operations are susceptible to internal and external factors beyond their complete control, the following four key touch-points should be at the forefront: awareness, education, preparedness actions, and achieving success through an ongoing commitment.

“People change. Situations change. Leaders change. Customers, patients, vendors, and partners change. Without consistent, ongoing review and engagement, atrophy toward workplace violence can’t help but set in.”

CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule

Workplace violence was one of the factors that spurred the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement in November 2017 the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule, requiring that 17 types of healthcare organizations get ready for natural and man-made disasters. Pearson noted that emergency preparedness/response professionals like Readiness Associates can help healthcare organizations comply with the Emergency Preparedness Rule by providing risk assessments, emergency plans, communication plans, policies and procedures, training and testing, tabletop exercises, emergency response drills, and more.