The average rate of violence (and other injuries by persons or animal) that resulted in days off from work across all industries in 2014 is 6.8% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, healthcare and social assistance blew all the other industries’ rates out of the water with the highest rate of 135.2%.
In the healthcare industry, patients don’t go through metal detectors or security, nor are they screened for their history of violence before being treated. Although there is no formal education on self-defense in medical school, there are measures that physicians and other healthcare professionals can take in order to protect themselves from healthcare violence.
Healthcare Violence – Know the Risk Factors
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes there are two vital parts to preventing healthcare violence: knowing the risk factors and an effective facility violence prevention program. But, the best way to protect yourself from healthcare violence is preventing it altogether. By recognizing risk factors healthcare professionals have a better chance of protecting themselves and others from healthcare violence. Here are some risk factors to be on the lookout for.
Patient-Related Risk Factors
- Patient has a history with substance abuse, violence, and/or gang members
- Patient is currently in possession of weapon such a firearm or knife
Setting-Related Risk Factors
- Working in a high-crime rate area
- Working alone in a healthcare facility or home
- Presence of weapons such as firearms or knives
- The working environment is poorly designed in a way that it interferes with the escape route and/or vision of possible witnesses
- Poorly lit areas within and/or around the healthcare facility or working area
- Lack of means to call for help
The Importance of an Effective Violence Protection Program
The listed risk factors should have been a refresher course in your facility’s violence protection program. It is the responsibility of the employer to train and educate its employees on how to protect themselves from dangerous situations. In fact, healthcare managers should be able to spot those risk factors from a mile away, and ideally before the physician does. A physician’s main priority is to administer care, not fear for their safety.
This is where a facility’s violence protection program comes into play. But, it is only as effective as the cooperation and participation of the facility’s managers and employees. Facilities must be analyzed for potential hazards and risks factors by healthcare managers, and take measures to correct and/or improve them.