Hospitals combat violence against workers

Angry patients and violence against healthcare workers plague hospitals across the country, as organizations try to defuse tension in a high-stakes environment.

Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota saw four security lockdowns in six months, with the latest incident on Sunday night involving someone outside of the hospital with a weapon, WCCO 4 news reported. Now the hospital, along with community partners, work to protect both patients and hospital staff.

Identifying triggers of patient violence can help hospital leaders find potential intervention targets, according to a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Researchers found that some catalysts for patient violence against healthcare workers included the use of needles and restraints, patient discomfort, cognitive impairment, physical transfers  and patients who demand to leave. Hospitals can train staff to recognize patient violence indicators and educate them as to how to best mitigate the situation, the study found.

Violent patients and vulnerable hospital staff are a dangerous combination, one the federal Patients' Bill of Rights needs to address, Anne Skomorowsky, Ph.D., a psychiatrist at Columbia University and a Public Voices fellow with the OpEd Project, wrote in an opinion piece in today's Boston Globe.

"The human rights perspective acknowledges that healthcare workers have the same inherent rights to safety as do patients," Skomorowsky wrote. "The healthcare worker is encouraged to report, document, and demand response from the institution and the government to prevent violent and threatening behavior."

Communication could be the key to defusing angry, potentially violent patients. When the healthcare deviates from patients' expectations of error-free, streamlined care, providers can actually exacerbate the situation by failing to communicate properly, according to a Huffington Post blog post.

This communication failure can prompt extreme anger and even litigation, author Ruth Tarantine, DNP, R.N., the chair of online nursing graduate programs and nursing faculty at a private university, wrote.  

Healthcare leaders and practitioners must practice good communication, validate patients feelings and hear their concerns and complaints, she said. "Nothing defuses patient anger better than an empathetic healthcare provider who is willing to acknowledge and discuss the shortcomings of healthcare, admitting that healthcare processes and providers need to improve," Tarantine wrote.

To learn more:
- here's Tarantine's blog post
- read the study abstract
- check out the Boston Globe's opinion piece
- here's the WCCO article