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In recognition of Workplace Violence Awareness Month, The Joint Commission has issued an alert on violence against health care workers. According to the Security Industry Association, health care workers are four times more likely to be victimized, including physical and verbal violence, than workers in a private industry.

The Sentinel Event Alert is intended to help health care workers in hospitals and other health care settings recognize violence from patients and visitors, and become prepared to handle it and then affectively address it after the event.

Contributing factors associated with perpetrators of violence in health care were identified in the alert, including: altered mental status or mental illness, patients in police custody, long wait times or crowding, being given bad news about a diagnosis, gang activity, domestic disputes, and presence of firearms or other weapons.

The Joint Commission provides seven suggested actions to help address these contributing factors:

  • Clearly define workplace violence and put systems in place across the organization that enable staff to report workplace violence instances, including verbal abuse.
  • Recognizing that data come from several sources, capture, track and trend all reports of workplace violence—including verbal abuse and attempted assaults when no harm occurred, but in which the health worker feels unsafe.
  • Provide appropriate follow-up and support to victims, witnesses and others affected by workplace violence, including psychological counseling and trauma-informed care if necessary.
  • Review each case of workplace violence to determine contributing factors. Analyze data related to workplace violence, and worksite conditions, to determine priority situations for interventions.
  • Develop quality improvement initiatives to reduce incidents of workplace violence.
  • Train all staff, including security, in de-escalation, self-defense and response to emergency codes.
  • Evaluate workplace violence reduction initiatives.

Workplace violence in the healthcare setting should be immediately reported to leadership, internal security, and to law enforcement as needed. Proper reporting can help health care organizations analyze what happened and inform actions that need to be taken to minimize risk in the future.

To read The Joint Commission’s full Sentinel Event Alert, visit here.

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