An epidemic of Workplace violence in healthcare-Part 3

by todaystrainingblog

We discussed the issue of workplace violence (WPV) in health care facilities. Now it’s time to discuss how we can actually prevent it, if at all possible. And being realistic and blunt…we can’t. However we can mitigate some of the risk and lessen the potential for serious injury.

Health care institutions look to get the worst end of criminal behavior because they are reluctant to acknowledge it openly to the public because it clouds their reputation. There are many ways that a health care facility can limit criminal activity within their walls. It isn’t easy, or cheap, but… And if you are going to be truly committed to it will take time, probably more time than the C-suite or employees will want to waste on it but again…

Here are some of my suggestions for all health care facilities, hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, & even doctors’ offices, to increase their security. And this will extend to everyone who is on-site. If you want an objective viewpoint, you may want to contact a consultant. At the very least you can ask your local police department to conduct a preliminary survey. But remember they don’t necessarily know everything they need for a private facility or health care organization.

Increase or add security Officers. Yes this can be expensive, but more expensive than a lawsuit & bad publicity?

Arm your security officers. I’m not advocating giving all officers firearms, but pepper spray, a TaSer, riot baton, or a firearm. As long as they receive certified training in the device…

Ensure officers duties don’t include items that don’t, or shouldn’t, involve security i.e. transporting deceased patients to the morgue.  This does happen to most departments, proprietary or contract. These duties need to be evaluated and see if they add anything to the efficiency and effectiveness of security.

All front line personnel, including security officers, need to be trained. Trained in what, you may ask other than the duties they are hired for? A short list;

De-escalation of angry upset patients & families. It has been noted in several surveys that people coming into hospitals are unusually angrier than they were a decade ago. This in turn leads to both threats and violence.

Customer service which directly collates to being able to deescalate someone & securing the facility

Active shooter incidents. Every employee needs to know how to react. Unfortunately, most health care organizations refuse to train their employees. And why? It frightens them and patients too much.

Policies & procedures. This goes for all employees so that they don’t ignore and allow security lapses or breaches

Adequately challenging someone any time, day or night. If someone is where they ain’t sposed to be…

Video systems. How many cameras do you have and are they monitored 24/7 by an officer and not an employee doing another job? It may be cost effective but is it security efficient?

          Reporting of incidents. A major concern for hospitals especially. Most doctors, nurses, & other staff don’t report verbal or physical assaults. Why? Because it mostly gets ignored and filed in round file #13, because it’s ‘just a part of the job, right?’

          Providing the proper resources. This is the one that leads to all others. Money drives everything, it doesn’t matter non-profit or for profit. Health care facilities need to start focusing on the quality of security, not cutting something because it’s perceived as too expensive. In a recent article in eweek (From “Health Care Breaches Common, But Budgets Stay Mostly Flat: Survey” (05/12/16) Lemos, Robert), it was noted that health care organizations put less than 1/3 of the money needed into security. The article talked about computer breaches but… Without the proper resources, it is analogous to fighting a grizzly bear with a sharp stick.

           It is a matter that officers, equipment, training (always training), weapons, controls, policies & procedures need to be in place and followed at all times with no exceptions. And if they aren’t followed then disciplinary action needs to be taken against those employees, no matter how small or trivial it seems, can we say perceived, to employees.

          The smallest thing can result in the loss of controlled substances including drug abuse by nurses, WPV incidents, & theft of other items. And then the organization has to deal with a multitude of other issues to squelch the bad publicity, especially if they have whistle blowers…

          A debate has been fired up lately about the ‘See Something Say Something’ cliché from the Department of Homeland Security. Everyone within a facility needs to speak up and say something to someone if they see, or even think they see something amiss! The amiss items could be stolen or use of drugs by staff, idle threats by families or patients and items being slipped into the pockets of the staff.

           Excuses shouldn’t be, and can’t be, ignored. Personal feelings aside about the C-suite and the way they conduct business. I wouldn’t never say turn someone in for taking a pencil or something like that but… if it turns out to be much larger and more expensive then…

           The security of our health care facilities should be of tantamount concern to everyone, but especially security professionals who are tasked with it. We may not have the proper resources to do our jobs properly; We may not get the management or C-suite support we need; We may be the inherent bad guys to 99% of all employees, visitors, families, & patients; But we need to do our best under circumstances that resemble the security of manufacturing plants of now, 10, 30, 50, & longer ago.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent nearly 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

                   I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear