4 Things You Could Be Doing Right Now to Mitigate the Threat of Workplace Violence (Part 1 of 4)

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This is a part one of a four-piece article written by guest contributor, David Corbin. He serves as the Director of Facilities, Engineering and Public Safety & Parking at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Corbin manages all aspects of Public Safety, Facilities, Engineering and Construction operations for a 3.6 million square foot, 313-bed institution. He created and currently holds the co-chair positions for the hospital’s first multidisciplinary Infant Security Committee and Workplace Violence Subcommittee. Corbin has an extensive background in the security industry and consults on a national level. He is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA).  Corbin obtained both a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University and Northeastern University respectively. Visit David’s website here.

A patient emerges from his emergency department room at a Minnesota hospital wielding a metal pole, surprising staff members in the nearby nurse’s station. Within seconds, the man has injured several staff members with injuries ranging from a broken wrist to a collapsed lung. The staff members barely had a chance to react. He later dies while in the custody of the police [more]. While incidents of this magnitude are not necessarily common, the level of violence in hospitals across the United States is increasing at a steady rate. Consider the recent 2014 Healthcare Crime Survey by the International Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation (IHSSF) that found significant increases in both the violent crime rate and the rate of disorderly conduct per 100 beds at US hospitals compared to the previous year’s survey.

I could go on and on with stories from the media about shootings, stabbings, assaults and other crimes in hospitals across the country. Instead, I’d like to focus on some things- four to be exact- that you can be doing right now to help mitigate the ever-present and ever-increasing threat of violence in your hospital. In today’s post, the first in a four-part series, we’ll focus on one of these four strategies. Check back weekly for future installments where we’ll discuss additional strategies.

Strategy #1- Create a Workplace Violence Committee

The problem of workplace violence can’t be resolved by the Security Department alone. Violence impacts employees across all areas of the hospital, not just in your higher-risk areas like the emergency department and the psychiatric unit.  Anyone working in any area can experience violence, from verbal to psychological to physical, at the hands of patients, visitors, co-workers and others. The idea here is to form a committee that brings to the table voices and minds from key areas of your institution to work together towards a common goal of reducing workplace violence. That being said, you’re probably wondering who should be on this important team. Here are my suggestions for membership:

  1. Executive Sponsor (Vice-President level)
  2. Security Director
  3. Human Resources Director
  4. Risk Management Director
  5. Inpatient Nursing Director
  6. Outpatient Nursing Director
  7. Domestic Violence Program Manager (where applicable)
  8. Employee Assistance Program Manager
  9. Emergency Department (ED) Nurse Manager & Chief Physician
  10. Psychiatric Unit Manager and/or Chair of Psychiatry
  11. Safety Manager
  12. Occupational Health Manager
  13. Staff Education Manager
  14. Line staff representation (one from each area) from: ED, selected inpatient unit, and support services).

Your team membership will obviously vary depending on the size of your hospital, organizational structure, clinical program offerings, and other factors. However, the idea here is to get the people at the table who can contribute ideas, make decisions, and take action when needed. Now, getting all of these people to the table in one place at the same time can be like herding cats- believe me, I understand! But, the results that the team can accomplish are well worth the three hours you’re going to spend on Outlook sifting through crazy schedules. This is where the executive sponsor can come in handy. It’s important to seek out someone in the C-suite who is willing and able to support this initiative. I can’t tell you who this will be, but it can vary from a clinical VP to the Chief Operating Officer (COO). The VP-level interest in the initiative will be helpful in getting the top dogs at the table for the first time.

I Have My Team Assembled- Now What?

Ok, so now you have your team assembled and you’re at the table for the kickoff meeting- where should you start? Well, for one, you should talk about what you as the Security leader want to see out of the team. Don’t forget to educate the members on what workplace violence is, where it happens, and the statistics from across the country and from your own institution. Where are the areas of concern in your hospital? What keeps you up at night? What worries the hospital community? Next, get input from the committee on what they see as important areas of focus. This initial discussion will help you decide the key areas to focus upon, from which you can derive the first goals for your team. Take it from me- don’t just meet and talk about things- form concrete goals and work as a team to accomplish them. This will keep the team focused and motivated.

Other Committee Logistics- From Leadership to Reporting

How often should you meet? Given the membership, it can be hard to get together frequently. My suggestion is to start meeting every other month for the first year of the committee. This frequency will help work out the kinks of the team and to keep their eyes on the preliminary goals. After that, you might move to a quarterly meeting.

Who should lead the team? The obvious answer here is the Security leader of the institution. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a hospital leader with the passion and expertise to lead this initiative, it might be best to step aside and let this person run the show or to serve with you as a co-leader.

Who should you report out to? Given the nexus to safety, it makes sense in most cases for the committee to report out regularly to the Environment of Care Committee (aka- Safety Committee). Reporting out to another group will give you and your team both publicity and accountability.

Time To Get Started!

I can tell you from my own personal experience that a multidisciplinary workplace violence committee, when properly formed and maintained, can help you make great strides in tackling this threat to your hospital community. It can also help to accomplish some of the other initiatives mentioned in this post. As a bonus, for the most part, this is a no-cost solution that can be implemented fairly quickly and easily. So, if you don’t have a team, what are you waiting for?

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