In North Dakota, a violence prevention system that works

By Zack Budryk

"Over the years, we've seen more and more violent people coming in our doors every day," Tim Vangerud, security director at Fargo, North Dakota's Sanford Medical Center, a 538-bed teaching hospital featuring a Level 2 Trauma Center, told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview.

Not that it's all bad news for hospitals seeking to protect against violence. An extensive plan is in place for any such incidents, from moving any potential weapons away from a patient's room to possible intervention from police officers, said Vangerud (pictured). In addition, its security officers must all pass a course on managing aggressive behavior, which includes recognizing signs of potential violence in patients and how to de-escalate while redirecting potentially violent patients to safer areas of the hospital.

Although not every hospital fits the same profile as Sanford, its violence-prevention strategies could "absolutely" be broadly applicable, Vangerud said.

"Workplace violence training, learning how to de-escalate situations, how to recognize escalating behavior could certainly be adaptable to anyone, big or small," he told FierceHealthcare. "It becomes customized when you do your own local risk assessment and start doing your program based to your local threats."

Successful violence prevention efforts rely on a full commitment at the executive level, and "we have really awesome support from our top leaders," Vangerud said. "We have some of our vice presidents involved in our workplace violence work groups, and … we have a lot of support from upper leadership here."

Sanford also has a close relationship with the local police and sheriff's department and contracts with local agencies for potentially violent patients. The hospital also trains its own security officers in management of aggressive behavior principles to help anticipate trouble as well as self-defense tactics.

In North Dakota, a violence prevention system that works