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Let's Raise Public Awareness of Hospital Violence

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2010

When you've assessed the threat, fashion the response. This could likely vary greatly depending upon the healthcare setting. Metal detectors; scenario training; armed security; heightened video surveillance–these are calls that each hospital has to make on its own.

Regardless of the setting, your hospital should have a prescribed approach to workplace violence, where every employee knows how to respond, where to go, where to direct patients and visitors to safety. Your employees will embrace response training, where staff are not working at cross purposes in times of great stress.

Another critical component is raising public awareness about the threat. First, your hospital should very publicly adopt a zero tolerance policy for violence. Hold a media conference and invite your newspaper, local TV, and radio. You don't need to have had a violent incident at your hospital to take a proactive stand. Explain the growing trend and your local concerns.

Of course, "zero tolerance" is largely symbolic. Words alone will not stop the violence. However, stating the case against violence puts the issue in the public consciousness. In effect, you are making your concerns the public's concerns. And you are inviting–if not obligating–local media to join your cause.

The public has been largely mute on the issue of hospital violence because the public does not understand the extent of the issue. It is your job to educate them. They will respond, because there is something particularly heinous about violence against healers. It strikes a chord.

With public support and media awareness, you can take your concerns to your local and state elected officials. If needed, laws can be enhanced or enacted. Perhaps additional funding for security can be had.

The data show that hospital violence is on the rise, even as crime in the overall society is hitting record lows. I hate to say this, but let's not wait for a potential Columbine-like mass shooting at a hospital before we take up the cause. Let's act now!

I would like to hear from readers about how they've tackled violence in the healthcare setting. How severe is the problem in your workplace? What has worked for you? What hasn't? What have been the toughest hurdles? Is your hospital C-Suite listening to your concerns?

Let me know. I'm concerned. I'm listening.


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John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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