How to protect lone healthcare employees from violence

Employers can include Safe Hub in their strategies to mitigate violence and abuse against lone healthcare employees.


protect lone healthcare employees from violence
With Red Alert, lone healthcare employees can get the emergency help they need in a crisis.

We talked in our last blog in general terms about how we can help and support lone healthcare employees. But we wanted to take the opportunity to take a closer look at a growing problem for the healthcare sector: violence and abuse against staff. In the US as in other countries, this has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, together with a shortage of healthcare employees. In this blog, we investigate the scale of the problem, and some of the mitigation strategies that healthcare employers can deploy.


Violence against lone healthcare employees is a severe problem

Workplace violence is common in healthcare settings around the world. Indeed, violence against US healthcare workers has been on the rise for at least a decade. Statistics don't tend to distinguish whether these victims of violence were lone workers or not. However, we know that a substantial proportion of healthcare workers spend at least some of their time working alone, and that they are potentially more vulnerable to attack without co-workers being present. Therefore, we can say with confidence that violence affects lone healthcare employees in particular.


Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show healthcare worker injuries resulting from violence rose from 6.4 per 10 000 full-time workers in 2011 to 10.7 per 10 000 in 2018, a rise of 67%. Healthcare and social service workers were five times more likely to experience workplace violence than all US workers. Indeed, they comprised 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work. And of course, verbal and psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence. They can lead to depression, burnout, high staff turnover, and even suicide among healthcare workers.


Anecdotally, violence against healthcare workers has gotten worse over the past year and half. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has compiled data on COVID-19-related attacks against healthcare workers in more than 40 countries. In the pandemic’s first 6 months, 611 incidents of COVID-19 related physical or verbal assaults, threats, or discrimination were directed toward healthcare workers, patients, and medical facilities.


Employers must take seriously the issue of violence in healthcare

Despite the increase in point-of-care violence, many healthcare leaders are unsure of the best way to address this complex issue. While disruptive behavior and violence cannot be prevented outright, there are several ways to help frontline staff feel safe and stay safe at work. It's important to engage executives and clinical leaders. Practical measures include storing necessary medical equipment out of sight if it can be used by patients or visitors as weapons. Wheeled intravenous (IV) poles have been replaced by poles attached to beds in many facilities around the US. Furniture arrangement is another strategic element, so items of furniture don’t trap staff inside the room.


Communicating expectations for behavior to patients and visitors can also help to address both verbal and physical aggression. The next step is to enable staff to hold patients and visitors accountable, as well as empowering staff more generally to advocate for their safety. Physical self-defense training can be valuable, especially when delivered by trainers with healthcare backgrounds. This should include how to avoid or disengage from being grabbed or choked, as well as simulated active shooter training. Knowing how to safely subdue violent patients is an important skill.


Safe Hub play its part in healthcare violence mitigation strategies

However good the strategies are to stop violence before it occurs, incidents need to be acknowledged and actioned. Collecting data on point-of-care violence at an organization and creating a monthly report to inform leaders of incidents can help identify hotspots and trends. Creating a reporting culture can help assess the scale of the problem at individual facilities. It's important to implement systems for staff to easily detail all instances of violent and disruptive behavior. Escalating instances of persistent disruption to managers and executives provides support for frontline staff in managing patient and visitor behavior.


Most importantly, there will be times when employers need to actively support lone healthcare employees who are facing violence or abuse while at work or travelling to and from their workplace. That's where Safe Hub and our emergency help feature, Red Alert, come into play. This supports lone healthcare employees who can signal for help, so they can get an emergency response. And as we log all alert incidents, it's an aid to instituting a reporting culture too.


How Red Alert helps in an emergency or during a threat

At the tap of a screen or the push of a button, activating a Red Alert will immediately open a two-way call with highly trained staff at Monitoring & Response Center (MRC). All our MRCs operate 24/7/365, guaranteeing an initial response in seconds. The MRC agent will use the first seconds of a call for active listening and can identify if a vulnerable worker may not be able to speak freely. Once they've started their dynamic risk assessment, they’ll evaluate the next steps to take. The MRC can direct emergency services straight to the worker and bypassing 911 call centers to save critical time.


Red Alert is also useful as a virtual buddy. The MRC operative will stay on the call with a worker, should they feel at risk. For example, if they’re working late at night and are uncomfortable in a poorly lit parking structure, MRC staff can stay alert as they walk to their vehicle. Even if they don’t require an emergency response, MRC operatives are providing valuable support to lone workers in crisis. And if there’s a false alarm, the worker doesn’t have to worry that they’ve wasted the emergency services’ valuable time. They can simply tell the MRC to stand down.


More Information about violence against healthcare workers is available in this article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) >.


To find out more about how Safe Hub can play a part in mitigating violence in healthcare against lone healthcare employees, contact one of the team today.


About Sky Alert

Safe Hub, from Sky Alert, is an advanced security platform that protects people working alone. With pinpoint accuracy and lightning-fast response, Safe Hub is not just another 911 app. It's all-around protection for lone workers. Using a discreet personal device such as the SOS Fob, our advanced App on a smartphone, or the SPOT X satellite device, Safe Hub connects users with a state-of-the-art Monitoring Response Center (MRC). At the MRC, highly trained operatives can provide immediate assistance directing the police or paramedics to your GPS location in the fastest time possible.