Violence against healthcare workers leads to increased focus on safety

Minnesota hospitals are implementing new safety protocols in response to threats to healthcare workers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Federal statistics indicates that nurses, doctors and mental health professionals are more likely to be assaulted on the job than any other workers, according to the article. In 2011, 6.5 out of 10,000 healthcare employees missed some amount of work due to deliberately-inflicted injuries--quadruple the overall U.S. rate.

This week, Stephen Larson, M.D., a  prominent obstetrician in Orono, Minn., was killed at home by a man disgruntled over the care his mother had received, according to the Star-Tribune.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Health organized a task force on violence prevention. Although the state has received reports of only eight in-hospital violent incidents in the past eight years, officials told the newspaper that other assaults and threats are often unreported out of a desire to protect patients.

"It could be the black eye or the injury that does not rise to the level of missing work," Diane Rydrych, the Health Department's director of health policy, told the Star-Tribune.

But suffering these incidents in silence can exacerbate the problem, often leading to complications like increased stress or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Joy Plamann, medical care center director at 467-bed St. Cloud Hospital.

Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis now conducts active-shooter drills in a paintball facility, which is mocked up to look like a unit at the hospital in order to better replicate the sense of urgency, according to the article. HCMC also trains staff on how to communicate with angry or upset people in a way that calms them down and prevents them from becoming violent, a practice known as "verbal judo," as well as other other safety protocols like "position[ing] yourself in a room… so you have an escape path," former HCMC security chief Mike Cole, who organized the drills, told the Star-Tribune.

Hospitals in Boston have established similar procedures for a "Code Silver" or active shooter situation. Brigham & Women's, for example, will soon make a video on how to deal with such an incident as a required part of the hospital's yearly training, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Star-Tribune article

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