Hospital violence is on the rise, but healthcare leaders face the difficult task of taking measures to prevent it without compromising the open, healing environment of their organizations. The key, according to an article by StatNews, is to develop effective strategies that go beyond simply reacting to individual incidents.
The Joint Commission is taking a closer look at institutions and agencies developing innovative anti-violence strategies, according to the article. For example, the Veterans Health Administration has a large-scale, ongoing anti-violence initiative, which teaches healthcare workers four levels of behavioral-management training, as well as communications skills for those at higher risk for verbal abuse. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have also recently embarked on initiatives to understand and prevent incidents.
Rather than being reactive, healthcare professionals must understand the various reasons hospital violence occurs, according to the article. While many attackers turn violent spontaneously due to mental illness, drugs or unexpected news of a loved one's death, others plan attacks beforehand. It's vital that healthcare workers understand the distinction, as there is far less risk involved in attempting to reason with the former. For example, the high-profile shooting of a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston involved the son of a recently-deceased patient, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
Even as the healthcare industry works to safeguard against violence on a larger scale, many individual incidents of violence against nurses are shrugged off, according to a separate StatNews article. Nurses are at higher risk of assault than doctors, but say they are often discouraged from pressing charges against attackers. As a result, many nurses feel it's a waste of time to report such incidents at all.
Meanwhile, the October shooting of a sheriff's deputy in St. Cloud, Minnesota, has hospitals across the state assessing their security protocols, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The incident has also prompted an examination of ongoing disputes about whether hospital officials or law enforcement are responsible for preventing such incidents, since the shooter was not under arrest at the time he was taken to the hospital. Federal regulators, reviewing the incident, faulted the hospital for ordering a 72-hour observational hold on the shooter but giving him no psychiatric treatment. Many hospitals, to avoid such friction with law enforcement, have created their own police departments.