The question “How nurses can prevent workplace violence?” is often asked by relatives of those who are working in the healthcare industry. After all, according to the report of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in 2013, more than 2 million workers in the United become a victim of workplace violence each year. These violent acts have also led to injuries, higher turnovers, and an increase in medical leave requests.
In 2009, the ENA (Emergency Nurses Association) has also released a study about the experiences of emergency nurses and the perception of violence in the Emergency Departments in the US. According to the results of the survey conducted with the help of 3,465 nurses, violence is definitely prevalent in their workplace. Around 25% of the respondents have experienced physical violence more than 20 times, while 20% of them encountered verbal abuse over 200 times in the preceding 3 years.
The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) describes workplace violence as acts of violence, and this includes both physical and verbal assault towards a person who is on duty. However, it does not only include physical harm but emotional harm as well. Some of the factors that lead to workplace violence in the healthcare industry are prolonged waiting times, high volume of patients who are seeking treatment, and patients who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Workplace violence impacts on nurses and organizations
The loss of work days of the nurses due to workplace violence have an impact on the wages that they would be receiving. Some even develop illnesses due to stress, which can increase the medical claims filed. Psychological counseling may also be needed for the nurses after experiencing violence. On the other hand, the hospital where they are working at may also be affected by violent incidents, such as having negative publicity. They also need to address attendance issues to ensure that the hospital’s operations will continue to run smoothly.
In fact, there were hospitals that were fined for not being able to take proper actions regarding workplace violence prevention and for not being able to protect their employees well. So, the overall cost of a violent incident is definitely much higher than the cost of implementing preventative measures.
Educating nurses on how they can prevent violence in the workplace and the proper way of responding to such violence can help minimize it significantly. However, there is still a limited amount of evidence on the effectiveness of such a method. According to Margo Halm, studies show that by relating to an aggressor, one can mediate evidence, and there is a need to discover evidence-based strategies in order to help nurses give a compassionate response to it. Well, the nurses do not only experience threatening encounters with their patients for they also encounter them with the visitors of the patients. According to Christine Schulman, the President of the AACN, everyone should work together in order to build an environment where the nurses can work safely and the patients can be healed.
Ways to prevent workplace violence
Violence is sometimes inevitable for nurses to experience while working, especially since they deal with different kinds of patients and visitors every single day. So, how can they prevent workplace violence?
- Training and education: Nowadays, there are now courses that nurses can enroll in to recognize and know how to handle violent behaviors and resolve conflicts better. Hospitals can also implement programs that are aligned with their culture and the needs of their patients. Every member of the organization should also be aware of their roles and responsibilities so that when they encounter violence, they would know what to do and who to turn to. Practicing before the actual scenario occurs may also help a lot.
- Recognize the factors that increase the risk of workplace violations: There are various factors that can increase the risk of violence from happening in the workplace like inadequate security, units that are short on staff, overcrowding, and a lack of staff training. By knowing these risk factors, the organization can tailor their efforts in areas that they need to work on. Making waiting areas more comfortable may also help reduce the occurrence of workplace violence.
- Keep a record: Organizations should keep a record of the programs that they are implementing to prevent workplace violence. These programs should also be evaluated to know whether they have been effective or not. Researching the current trends in workplace violence prevention and making necessary changes in their programs would also help. Apart from that, organizations should also keep a record of the violent incidents that have occurred within the hospital, and they should spend some time talking to both parties involved and to the witnesses if there is any to have a clearer picture of what actually happened. They shouldn’t also forget to address injuries and the damage to properties that resulted from the violence. Such information will help them prevent similar situations from occurring again in the future.
- Never enter a patient’s room alone: If a nurse is not that comfortable with a certain patient or if a patient already has a history of being violent, it would not be best for nurses to walk into that patient’s room alone. In case they need to administer medicine to the patient, they can ask a coworker to enter the patient’s room with them. It is always best to be cautious and to go with their instinct.
- Keep dangerous items away: For nurses who have patients with serious mental disorders, it would not be a good idea to keep dangerous things like needles and firearms near the patient. So, before leaving the room, they should double-check whether they already have everything with them or not. Also, in case violent behaviors have been noticed, it should be reported to the management as soon as possible.
- Enhance physical protection: The organization should see to it that everything in the hospital that is accessible to the public cannot be used as a weapon. The station of the nurses should also be enclosed for added protection. Of course, the organization should place emergency exits all over the hospital so that in case violence happens, the victim can easily escape from it. If possible, organizations should also increase the number of people who are patrolling the hospital as well as invest in metal detectors and security cameras to provide peace of mind, not only to the nurses working there but also to the patients, the visitors, and other employees of the organization.
- Communicate: Communication is also the key to prevent workplace violence. As a nurse, they should feel that they could speak their mind. If there is something in the organization that makes them feel unsafe when they are working, they should tell their immediate supervisor about it. They can also suggest things that can improve the safety in the hospital like having controlled access doors, ensuring that the parking lot is well-lit, restricting the patient’s movement, and placing buttons on the patient’s room that the nurses can press during emergencies.
Awareness that workplace violence indeed exists in today’s world is very important to eliminate it. Also, organizations, governments, and society as a whole should work together to provide a safe workplace for nurses who have been promoting health and helping people attain their optimal recovery.