Violence won’t be tolerated here
In Massachusetts, a surgeon was shot and killed. In Louisiana, a nurse died while protecting a co-worker from a patient’s assault. In Minnesota, a nurse was attacked by a patient wielding a metal pipe.
Across the country and within Asante, health care workers are being assaulted physically and verbally, making workplace violence among the profession’s most pervasive — and underreported — threats. In fact, health care workers have a 20% greater chance of being assaulted than other workers.
Because of this, Asante is taking a bold stand against violence in our facilities, whether it’s committed by patients, visitors or even co-workers. Earlier this year, Asante established the Workplace Violence Prevention Council, a 30-member group with representatives from various jobs and departments throughout the organization. The council’s aim is to stop violence in our facilities.
As the first publicly visible results of the team’s work, signs will appear in Asante hospitals later this month reminding all who enter our buildings that any form of violence is not tolerated.
The signs will be posted in areas with the greatest risk of violence against staff, including the Emergency Department and registration desks.
“We want our patients and visitors to know that we expect them to treat their caregivers with the respect we give them,” said Robert Begg, vice president of Human Resources. “Having a visible message that spells this out is the first step, with additional patient education to follow.”
The signs are just the beginning of the team’s work, which focuses on raising awareness; strengthening incident reporting; educating employees on how to prevent violence and protect themselves; updating policies and creating a physical environment that reduces risk of violence against staff.
The project relies on a variety of tools to reduce violence, including the Oregon Association of Hospital and Health Systems’ 172-page Stop Violence in Healthcare toolkit, which was developed by several professional organizations, including the Oregon Nurses Association.
“Lynda Enos, RN, known by many at Asante for her work assisting us with our safe patient handling initiatives, is the primary author of this extensive document,” said Karey Westbrook, who leads Asante’s Workplace Violence Prevention program along with Neff Clark. “It references the vast amount of literature that has been written from studies on this topic across the U.S. and internationally and uses that to provide recommendations for implementing a successful workplace violence prevention program.”
“We are looking at Asante’s Workplace Violence Prevention program from start to finish, closing any gaps to make our facilities as safe as can be,” Clark said.
Over the next several months, the team will offer tips on preventing workplace violence, deescalating tense encounters, developing personal resilience and more in Asante News.
The ultimate goal is to change Asante’s culture.
“The safety of our employees is as important as the safety of our patients; becoming the victim of violent or assaultive behaviors should never be written off as part of the job,” said Laura Magstadt, vice president of Nursing at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center and co-executive sponsor of the Workplace Violence Prevention Program. “It is critically important that incidents of workplace violence come out into the open so we can learn from them and do the work that is necessary to end violence and abuse toward our employees.”
Stories from the front lines
“I once had an interaction with a patient who had a history of schizophrenia and needed placement but had not been medically cleared. He was in IMCU with a sitter (a CNA who was pregnant). As I walked by the room I noted he was starting to get agitated. He had been helped to the restroom in the back and, for no discernible reason, had started engaging in self talk that gradually increased in intensity.
“I stepped in to check on the sitter and the next thing I knew he had ripped the toilet privacy curtain down and was walking towards me with it held high like he was going to bring it down over my head. This was unnerving as he was over 6’5” tall. I believe I called for help or perhaps the CNA. I remember holding up my hands to prevent the curtain from coming down over my head when a male CNA and RN arrived. They secured the patient’s arms, but my hand was pinned between them.
“The patient was not specifically fighting us, but some internal battle, and was only responding to commands intermittently. Eventually I was able to remove my hand and we maneuvered the patient to the bed where he knelt down and began praying. I think we ended up placing soft wrist restraints and possibly administering some medications. My hand was bruised slightly, but otherwise, no one was harmed.”
Tonsina Wells, RN, ARRMC critical care nursing resource team
Have you been subject to verbal or physical abuse on the job? Share your story at [email protected].
If you need answers for a personal work matter, please contact the author or department directly.