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Violence and abuse are not part of the job

Asante works to prevent workplace violence and increase awareness.
Workplace violence

Being assaulted is not in any health care provider’s job description. Yet even with a vigorous, three-year prevention campaign, violence is still taking place in our hospitals and clinics.

In one unit, an agitated patient grabbed a CNA’s hair. Another tried to strike a nurse with a telemetry box. Just this month, a patient brought by police to an Asante Emergency Department attacked and injured staff members.

Stories like this abound at health care facilities across the United States, which is why the American Hospital Association launched Hospitals Against Violence, or #HAVHope. On June 4, Asante joins this national day of awareness to combat violence in the workplace and urges interested employees to share the message outside of Asante.

This observation is an extension of what the system has been doing since the Workplace Violence Prevention Council was established in 2020. Its goal is to reduce abusive and violent behaviors through cultural change, operational practices and environmental safeguards.

To date, this group has:

  • Expanded training on de-escalation techniques, behavioral management and crisis intervention.
  • Instituted a warning system to alert employees if a patient exhibits harmful behavior or has a history of violence against staff.
  • Updating policies on code gray, disruptive patient, disposition of patient belongings and post-event forms.
  • Drafted Words That Work to help employees communicate with violent or aggressive patients.
  • Posted signs in patient care areas to remind the public that abusive or violent behavior will not be tolerated.
  • Established an Incident Review Council that reviews incidents of workplace violence and develops a standardized process for improvements.
  • Instituted purposeful security rounding.
  • Adopted a cross-functional trauma-informed care response, or TICR, huddle to develop appropriate safety responses for a troubled patient.
  • Created a one-stop Workplace Violence Prevention resource center on myAsanteNET with updated policies, instructional videos and toolkits.
  • Strengthened security features on campuses, including adding exterior lighting and limiting unauthorized access to buildings.

Perhaps the biggest change, and one that’s hardest to measure, are the cultural shifts. For years, many employees accepted violent and abusive behavior as part of the job, particularly with patients who had behavioral health issues or suffering the effects of medication or illicit drugs.

As part of the Workplace Violence Prevention program launch, leaders have emphasized that “becoming the victim of violent or assaultive behaviors should never be written off as part of the job.”

The program has stepped up its effort to encourage staff members to file a responsible event report (RER) after an incident of abuse or violence — and to have confidence that Asante’s leaders will back them up.

This proved to be some comfort to Stacy Kostenbauer, manager of the Heimann Cancer Center. After receiving an alarming threat from a patient with a history of abusive behavior, she filed an RER, called Medford Police and was granted permission to handle the situation as necessary.

“That was key,” she said. “You have to have the support of your director and the risk management team — and we did.”

To learn more about Asante’s Workplace Violence Prevention program, visit its page on myAsanteNET or email [email protected].

What to do if you’re assaulted

Asante’s post-assault procedures policy defines assaults and offers instruction on next steps.

Workplace violence poster
Workplace Violence Prevention

Log into the Asante network to find:

  • Policies
  • Tools and resources
  • Instructional videos
  • Self-service posters
Tags: #HAVHope, Incident Review Council, policies, practices, Workplace Violence Prevention
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If you have a question, please contact the author or relevant department directly.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • Having security here and promptly responding to calls is invaluable. I am so grateful for them.

  • Holly Jesse RN
    May 24, 2023 2:43 pm

    This doesn’t even mention the multiple serious physical attacks in the BHU lately. Staff with a fractured jaw, broken noses, additional punches to the face – all perpetrated by patients (who aren’t in their beds in BHU but milling about the unit.) These incidents occurred after the new procedures to prevent violence were in place. They are sent to jail and released within hours with class 4 misdemeanors , and are circled right back around to the PCU in the ED, needing a bed. No wonder we have job openings (with great patterns too – including day shift) open for months on end. BHU has also had recent incidents of patients in a brawl with each other punching each other in the body and face.

  • Leanna L. Blakely
    May 25, 2023 5:29 am

    This article is means alot more to me then anyone else who might read it..,because Iam one of the Recent victims in the above-mentioned comment,..and I write this now from home because Iam still not released for work yet after a violent assault from a unprovoked patent, who ran after me as I was leaving the room punched me in the face several times and grabbed my hair smashed my face into the corner of the door I was trying get threw and continued punching me and slammed my head I to the wall/ door I to the hallway ,I have been working in this field for over 20years and this was my first assault, IN spite all my years of training I all aspects of ,O.I.S Certificates ,Crisis Inervention , Behavior Support Strategies Certificates,
    assistant BehavioralSpecialist ,/Sex Controlled Oriented Rapist skills trainer,
    I was completely helpless and unable to defend myself or yell for help let alone push a panic button at all…After the first push to the face I knew my nose was broken,and was knocked unconscious, meaning I was unable to get away, disoriented and in shock,my glasses were shattered off my face I couldn’t see due to my hair pulled back completely ,all I wS thinking was where is everyone, why are t they helping me, is he ever gonna let me go and stop punching me in the head/ face/ neck?? Finally after 8 minutes he stopped and walked away with his hands behind his back and told me I’d better watch my back…
    The CT scan revealed broken nose and several Fractured facial bones including cheek bone ,jawbone and punctured eardrum,,after they removed the wires from my jawbone and reset my nose in place,I developed a Meningitis, from the Fluid in my Brain leaking out of my head caused from the blows to the head ,after a month of antibiotics it is healed thank god.,
    I LOVE my job….and can’t wait to return .Yes Iam horrified .and I find myself watching my back every where I go.Just like he said..
    I tell this story ,to let it be known of the severity of violence in our workplace a and the importance of this topic.please be aware of any warning signs a d chart anything that is alarming in any way with all patients, This Pt.had warning signs that were not Charted,and had been escalated all day,as our original conversation went that led up to his violence.,
    Later I learned that this pt.was aggressive during his registration process the day before and broke glass with intent to cut the Registration tech..none of that info was documented?

    • Leanna, thank you so very much for sharing the details. I joined the assault debriefing for your assault and none of the specifics you shared here was revealed. I’m so sorry what happened to you happened to you. Many of us in the unit care about you, are concerned about you, think and pray for you. You’re my superhero!

    • Holly Jesse
      May 29, 2023 11:57 am

      Exactly Leanna. The article drastically minimized the events of “assault” our staff and patients have endured, yours being the worst. People need to know the real TRUTH.

  • Asante Workplace Violence Prevention
    July 25, 2023 9:26 am

    For those who have commented, thank you for your responses. We have reached out to these individuals via email to follow up with their concerns. For additional comments or concerns please email WP*@as****.org


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