Workplace Violence is NOT “Just Part of the Job.”

I spoke with a nurse yesterday who told me that ZERO Tolerance for Workplace Violence was impossible in the healthcare setting, because they take care of people who become violent. “It’s just part of the job, so I take the punches, bites, and scratches, insults, and so on, and I move through my day.”

I agree that sometimes caring for people who become violent may be part of the job, but I don’t believe that tolerating such behavior is necessary, and I strongly believe that Workplace Violence in Healthcare CAN BE REDUCED with some training.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that Workplace Violence with injury in healthcare workers is 4 times more common than in other professions. The problem with this statistic is that it depends on numbers that are REPORTED, and around half of the workplace violence events that happen in the healthcare setting go unreported!

Speroni and colleagues asked nurses why they don’t report Workplace Violence, and they found that nurses didn’t complete an incident report because (a) they did not sustain a “significant” injury (49.5%), (b) they didn’t have time 26.1%, or (c) Like my friend, they hold the attitude that “violence comes with the job” (19.6%) (Speroni, Fitch, Dawson, Dugan, & Atherton, 2014).

What can be done?!

  1. Create a ZERO Tolerance policy for Workplace Violence. This policy must be socialized to all staff, from the physicians on down to the greeters. It will also guard you from lawsuits!
  2. Awareness! TRAIN your staff to recognize the warning signs that someone may get violent, and what to do about it. You can hire Empowered, LLC to come in and train, coach and advise your staff, on awareness and de-escalation (it’s what we do all day, every day!) OR you can get your staff to take a free online course like this one from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (we recommend it, it’s an awesome resource).
  3. Report, report, report. Have a quick, easy, internal way to report instances that aren’t bad enough to lose work over. If you document and track where the fires are, they are easier to put out through training, support, process overhaul, etc.
  4. Take care of your workers. Culturally acknowledge that a person isn’t going to be ridiculed for getting counseling and help to deal with the events they see and experience on the job. The trauma and stress that workplace violence can create is huge, and causes depression, turn-over, early retirement, and stress-induced health issues over time.

Saying that workplace violence is an acceptable part of the job is straight-up appalling, especially for the noble people who dedicate their lives to helping others. While it may be impossible to have a violence-free workplace, it is possible to reduce that violence, and it is advisable to refuse to condone the behavior with tolerance.

Be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!

By Michele Maupin, Founder of Empowered, LLC and a personal safety expert who dedicates her life to “Empowering people who help people.” Contact us if you would like info to have Michele come speak at your next event; or we’ll come to your clinic for a workshop series.