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Promote Hospital Staff Safety with Publicity

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 12, 2011

Violence against healthcare workers is not breaking news for people who work in healthcare. For many of them – particularly emergency department staff – threats, cursing, screaming, and sometimes even physical assaults are symptomatic of a healthcare delivery system stretched to the breaking point.

As I have noted before, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that for every 10,000 hospital workers, eight workplace assaults resulted in missed work days. In the overall private sector, by contrast, only 1.7 workplace assaults resulted in missed work for every 10,000 workers.

These assaults on healthcare workers should never be considered routine, or “part of the job.” Nobody trying to make an honest living – especially a healer – should have to put up with abuse. And to their credit, growing numbers of hospitals and other healthcare organizations are adopting zero tolerance policies.

For the most part, however, the public does not understand the extent of the problem. It’s up to the healthcare sector to educate them. The word is getting out, slowly. The mainstream media is starting to pick up the issue, and every article or TV news segment dedicated to the topic will bring that much more public attention to the problem. With the public informed and on your side, good things will happen.

Smart hospital leaders are finding positive, proactive ways to generate publicity about violence against staff, and patients. It’s not difficult to do because hospital security is an important story that resonates with the public.

I was reminded of this recently when Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, touted its new violence prevention and de-escalation program for ED workers. Smart move, Vandy! There is really nothing revolutionary or trend-setting about such programs.

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