Workplace Violence

The Joint Commission defines workplace violence as “An act or threat occurring at the workplace that can include any of the following: verbal, nonverbal, written, or physical aggression; threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating words or actions; bullying; sabotage; sexual harassment; physical assaults; or other behaviors of concern involving staff, licensed practitioners, patients, or visitors.”

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), healthcare workers are four times more likely to experience workplace violence compared to workers in other industries. In fact, 73% of all workplace violence victims are healthcare professionals. Sadly, oftentimes the most common offenders are the same patients who are receiving treatment. The most common places for patient/staff violence are waiting rooms, emergency rooms, geriatric settings, and psychiatric facilities. The ER is one of the most frequent healthcare workplaces experiencing violence. Out of 3,500 ER doctors, nearly 97% claim that patients are the primary source of assault. Additionally, patients threatened to harm 83% of doctors. (Source: Nursing World, Marketing General Incorporated, US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

These sobering statistics highlight the importance of addressing workplace violence in healthcare and the need to implement preventative measures. It is therefore essential to create a safe and supportive work environment for healthcare workers, who play a critical role in providing care to patients. It’s also important to recognize the warning signs or indicators that may precede such incidents. Some common indicators of workplace violence include verbal threats or aggression, intimidating behavior, sudden changes in behavior or mood, poor job performance, substance abuse, and history of violent behavior.

It’s important to note that these indicators do not necessarily mean that someone will become violent. However, if these behaviors are observed in a coworker or employee, they should be taken seriously and reported to management and/or HR. Some best practices include a simplified reporting mechanism that makes it easy for incidents to be submitted for investigation. Security, HR, Compliance, and Risk Management work hand in hand, and referrals to law enforcement (where appropriate) should be made early in order to mitigate an escalation of violence.

Finally, policies and procedures need to be in place that address reporting and mitigation of workplace violence. Employers must also provide resources for employees who may be experiencing personal or work-related stress such as employee assistance programs (EAP). By taking proactive steps, a safer and more productive work environment can be enjoyed by everyone.