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Hospital violence not part of the job
The average American worker stands a 1.7-in-10,000 chance of being assaulted on the job, but for registered nurses the risk is 6.1 per 10,000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Modern Healthcare reports The Joint Commission tracked 23 violent incidents in the first half of 2011, compared to 42 reports in 2008, which was the most-violent year ever for healthcare facilities. The agency mandates accredited facilities perform risk assessments and have plans in place for security of staff and patients.

But those are minimum steps. Modern Healthcare cites a survey of members of the Emergency Nurses Association which found that zero-tolerance policies for patient or visitor violence and affirmative support of staff who report violence can reduce workplace violence.

“If you're standing on a street corner and you strike a nurse, we put you in jail,” one physician commented to the publication. “When you're in a hospital and you strike a nurse, we give you a series of drugs and get you out as soon as possible. That's not right.”

Other observers say nurses should learn from paramedics and firefighters, whose first step often is to screen the situation for safety. Getting the message out to the community that violence won’t be tolerated is another possible deterrent.

“States across the country have established a patchwork system of enhanced legal protections for healthcare workers. A 2-year-old national assessment by the Emergency Nurses Association found that at least 26 states had laws declaring that violent acts against healthcare workers were felonies, and several states have passed new laws or strengthened existing ones since then,” Modern Healthcare reports.

Other hospital workers say in addition to prosecuting offenses against workers and installing ER metal detectors, hospitals should provide regular training sessions on physical self-defense and how to deescalate tense situations. Emergency room nurses say long waits, crowded conditions, and growing numbers of mentally disturbed patients all exacerbate the stress in emergency departments.

PHTS risk management staff are available to assist Palmetto Hospital Trust members with workplace violence prevention efforts through on-site educational programs, etc. Please contact Wendy G. Stephenson, MS, ARM, CPHRM, ASP, vice president, risk management, or Don Hale, MS, assistant vice president, risk management, PHTS, at wstephenson@phts.com or dhale@phts.com for more information.

Additional resources may be available through the PHTS/AlliedBarton Security Services strategic alliance. For more information on the services available through PHTS/AlliedBarton, please contact Adam B. Allen, MBA, CIW, A+, MCP, INS, ARM, AIS, executive vice president & chief operating officer at PHTS, at aallen@phts.com.