How to handle threatening situations in healthcare properly? This is a normal question authorities ask themselves as administrative controls may affect the way staff perform jobs or tasks. In fact, misinformation and distrust trigger violence and abuse. This blog explores what can be done from an administrative point of view to prevent and control threatening situations faced by healthcare workers.
1. Workplace violence response policy
It should be clearly stated that violence is not permitted nor tolerated. This information should be acknowledged by patients, clients, visitors and workers. Employees should be comfortable enough to report assaults as unacceptable behavior.
2. Tracking workers
Managers should establish log-in and log-out procedures where the name, address, time and duration of the visit is written. For workers, there should always be a registered contact number, a code word used to inform someone of an incident, worker’s vehicle description, license plate number and the contact of his/her supervisor.
3. Tracking patients with a known history of violence
There should be supervision of all patients’ movement through the facility. Learn about each patient’s assaultive behaviors and make sure staff is aware of these patients. Use all information for future identification and prevention.
In case any patient considers this as stalking behavior, consider varying checking-in and outs of affected workers and plan multiple travel routes to increase workers safety.
4. Working alone or in secure areas
Treat aggressive clients or patients in relatively open areas while still maintaining privacy. In those cases look after employees and do not let them work alone. Security escorts to parking areas could also be implemented when late night shifts. Areas such as parking lots should be well lit and visible.
Promote the reporting of all assaults or threats and keep track of them. Make sure they are confidential to increase participation. You could also establish liaisons with local police or external service providers.
6. Entry procedures
Adopt measures to reduce waiting times, such as visitor passes. Promote visitor hours and have a “restricted visitor” list with patients with a history of violence. Communicate this information to security, nurses, and sign-in clerk.
7. Incident response/ high risk activities
Always be prepared with a contingency plan for your facility´s common attacks or threats, communicate it with personnel so they know how to call for help when needed. Ensure that staff is trained and there is provided management support to de-escalate high risk situations.
8. Employee uniforms / dress
Make sure staff wear identification badges. Avoid the use of necklaces or chains to prevent strangulations. Avoid expensive jewelry or large sums of money as well as keys or any item that could be used as a weapon. Encourage the use of cap or tied hair so that workers aren´t grabbed or pulled.
Finally… Remember that any chosen practices should be appropriate to the type of site and identified hazards. On the other hand, keep in mind that training for administrative staff should be based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of violence.