5 ways hospitals can help nurses prevent violence


Hospital violence is one of the healthcare industry’s most pressing problems, and nurses have long warned they need more support from hospital leaders to make progress in reducing it. At Massachusetts hospitals, nurses have developed violence-prevention protocols that could be a model at the national level, according to a blog post from Labor Notes.

Nurses at Holyoke, Massachusetts’ Providence Hospital and Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center were ahead of the curve on violence prevention, according to the article. In the late ‘90s, weary of reports of beatings, verbal abuse, patients with weapons and even sexual assault in some cases, Providence nurses collaborated with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) to develop a prevention plan. Nurses at both hospitals added language to their bargaining agreements in 1998 in which hospital administrators acknowledged their responsibility to provide a safe environment.

Five years later, MNA introduced even stronger contract wording that protected against workplace violence specifically, with the proposal backed by numerous nurses’ extensive documentation of violent incidents. Providence’s new contract established several provisions for employee protection, including:

  • ID badges that only identify nurses by their title and first names
  • A comprehensive procedure for weapon detection and confiscation
  • De-escalation training for potential assault situations
  • Security surveillance of all grounds and parking areas, as well as adequate lighting for such areas
  • Medical and psychological services for workers affected by violence

While these changes have helped the hospitals make progress, action is needed at the federal level, according to National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest nurses’ union. In July, NNU called for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement regulations similar to those enacted in California, including thorough assessment of risk factors and an organization-wide violence prevention program created with employee involvement.

“This petition has an expansive scope, like the proposed California regulations--so it includes general acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, home care and other field work, mental health treatment centers, and others--everywhere healthcare workers are at risk,” NNU Director of Health and Safety Bonnie Castillo said in a statement.

- read the Labor Notes post
- here’s the NNU statement