Workplace violence Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Health care accreditation group issues alert on workplace violence

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Oakbrook Terrace, IL — Prompted by OSHA data showing that about three-quarters of workplace assaults occur in health care and social service settings, accreditation organization The Joint Commission has released a Sentinel Event Alert on the issue.

The alert, published April 17, is intended to help organizations identify and acknowledge violence directed at health care workers by patients and visitors, better prepare staff to handle violence, and more effectively address the aftermath, the commission states. The resource includes data from reports and studies that have found not only a prevalence of physical and verbal violence from patients, patients’ families or other workers, but also that these incidents also are underreported.

Reasons for underreporting include workers’ mindset that violence is “part of the job” and their uncertainty as to what constitutes violence, the alert states.

The alert advises health care organizations to:

  • Clearly define workplace violence and install establishment-wide systems that enable staff to report all instances of abuse.
  • Capture, track and trend all reports of workplace violence – including verbal abuse and attempted assaults in which no physical harm occurred.
  • Provide appropriate follow-up and support – including psychological counseling and trauma-informed care, if necessary – to victims, witnesses and others affected by workplace violence.
  • Review each case of workplace violence to determine contributing factors. Analyze data related to workplace violence and worksite conditions to determine priority situations for intervention.
  • Develop quality improvement initiatives to reduce incidents of workplace violence.
  • Train all staff – including security – in de-escalation, self-defense and response to emergency codes.
  • Evaluate workplace violence reduction initiatives.

The American Nurses Association issued a press release applauding the alert’s publication.

“ANA is pleased that The Joint Commission has issued a Sentinel Event Alert on physical and verbal violence against health care workers,” association President Pamela F. Cipriano said in the April 18 release. “In particular, we welcome its recommendations to employers to help reduce the incidence of violence across all health care settings and roles.

“Evidence indicates that barriers to reporting exist and hamper progress despite the presence of ‘zero tolerance’ policies. Employers must address the workplace culture that discourages health care workers from reporting for fear of retribution. In order to see real change, employers, individual nurses and policymakers must work together to remove impediments to reporting.”

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