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An Analysis of Workplace Violence Statistics in Healthcare

In February 2021, landmark legislation was introduced to the Senate directing the Secretary of Labor to issue occupational safety and health standards across the healthcare and social service industries. Its purpose: to address the shocking levels of violent and antisocial behaviors that leave healthcare workers five times more likely to be injured than workers in any other industry, and to ensure that comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans are standardized across healthcare and social services.


While data suggests that up to 38% of healthcare workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers, a recent study published by the The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety highlights how proxy measures used to represent workplace violence (WPV) lead to underestimation and underreporting. Put simply, post-event restraint, incident, and injury reports fail to accurately record the true number of violent, aggressive, and antisocial incidents within the industry, and by shifting reporting to event counters, staff in the study were exposed to 1.17 events per 40 hours worked.


As a company deeply committed to improving the lives of workers most at risk, we have long recognized the need for more and better data that represent the true levels of WPV within the healthcare industry. We believe no one should be afraid while trying to earn a living, and understanding the broader picture of WPV while ensuring that proper incident reporting systems are in place are crucial to create safer workplaces for all stakeholders.


With these thoughts in mind, this article aims to gather some of the existing data from a variety of sources to paint a comprehensive view of WPV within healthcare settings. Read on to learn more and explore our suggestions on how to develop strategies designed to reduce incidents. 


1. Overview of Aggressive Incidents


There is little argument that violent and aggressive incidents have risen significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic; however, WPV was undoubtedly an issue before, and data is taken from as far back as 2011. Here are some of the most striking stats that help build an overview of the true levels of aggressive incidents within the healthcare industry.



2. Quantifying Aggression: A Statistical Overview


Violent, aggressive and antisocial workplace incident statistics must also quantify the types of aggressions and to whom they were directed. These data highlight how verbal aggressions underpin all types of WPV, and how they can escalate into more serious incidents. 



3. Understanding the Triggers of Aggression


Understanding the factors that trigger aggressive behaviors in patients is key to identifying when, where, and how WPV incidents play out. These data aim to shine a light on some of those triggers.



4. Real-Life Examples


By some estimates, 75% of healthcare workers do not feel safe at work, and healthcare facilities stand to lose an average of $37,000 to $58,400 per staff turnover. Combined, these statistics suggest that all stakeholders within healthcare facilities stand to benefit from safer workplaces—the staff subject to WPV, the facility’s ROI, and the patients that stand to lose better levels of care when staff are intimidated or threatened.  

One such facility that stands at the forefront of innovation in the provision of treatment services for individuals with substance use and mental health challenges, is The Behavioral Wellness Center at Girard  in Philadelphia. ROAR was privileged to introduce a 3-month pilot at the facility that aimed to improve incident response and de-escalate incidents through the use of wireless panic buttons in tandem with existing CCTV and other WPV solutions.


During the pilot, these statistics were noted:


  • A 39% reduction in incidents between patients and staff and a significant upswing in staff peace of mind.
  • Worker compensation claims decreased by 24% when compared to the facility’s historic claims rate.
  • A 50% reduction in the overall MOD score.
  • Staff satisfaction increased from 57% to 73% once rollout was complete.


5. Management Strategies in Response to Aggression


  1. Verbal De-escalation Techniques — 75.2% of events within the Joint Commission’s report were de-escalated using verbal techniques, and it remains one of the most powerful tools within healthcare professionals’ arsenal. Active listening, empathy, and the use of non-confrontational language are key, as well as clear, calm, and reassuring communication. The Crisis Prevention Institute has excellent resources on these topics.  


  1. Physical Environment Modifications — The environment in which healthcare professionals work and patients receive care can have notable effects on behaviors, with overcrowded areas a particular flashpoint. This means that the physical environment should be designed with clear sightlines and unobstructed pathways, as well as including safe areas for staff retreat during emergencies. Additionally, access controls, security cameras and panic button systems can all help improve existing environments that may not have these options.


  1. Staff Training and Education — Ensuring staff are well educated on how to recognize warning signs of escalating aggression is key to addressing WPV and ensuring incidents are dealt with in the least damaging ways possible. Education on verbal intervention and conflict resolution are critically important, as well as simulation exercises to practice responding to violent incidents, and cross-training staff from different departments to support each other during emergencies.


  1. Documentation and Reporting — As part of a WPV prevention plan, and by harnessing all available data documenting incidents that includes near-misses and close calls, reporting incidents correctly and in a timely fashion is another important management strategy.  Data analysis should aim to identify trends and patterns for targeted interventions, such as during medication administration or when patients are waiting for care. Additionally, qualitative reporting on the nature of incidents can allow organizations to provide better aftercare and support for employees subject to WPV.


  1. Policy Development and Enforcement — Establishing clear policies and procedures for managing aggression and regularly reviewing and updating policies in response to changing circumstances are both core elements of a comprehensive WPV plan. Additionally, it is important to enforce consequences for violations of workplace violence policies.


  1. Technological Solutions — Panic buttons for summoning immediate assistance are increasingly becoming required by law for lone and vulnerable workers across the US. In addition, they can help provide quantitative and qualitative data on WPV, sometimes in tandem with video surveillance systems for monitoring and deterring violence, access control systems to restrict entry to high-risk areas, and integrated communication systems for coordinated responses.


6. Legal Considerations and Implications


Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 remains the core piece of legislation in the fight against workplace violence, and its approach to WPV is insufficient and out-dated. However, efforts are underway to bring in federal legislation designed to tackle workplace violence specifically within healthcare and social services, providing a much needed refresh on strategies to address WPV head-on. 


Both the SAVE Act (Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees), and the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act are currently being considered within the Senate. Additionally, OSHA provides comprehensive information on workplace violence within healthcare settings, encouraging the development of solid workplace violence prevention programs.


At the state level, California has introduced the broad-reaching Workplace Violence Prevention Act that stretches across all industries and sectors. This will come into force on July 1st 2024, and requires all employers to establish, implement, and maintain an effective written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan. Additionally, various state laws have been enacted within the hotel and hospitality industry that require establishments to introduce panic button systems or personal safety devices, alongside other WPV measures intended to address rising levels of aggression.


7. Conclusion


Data on the prevalence and impact of WPV in the post-pandemic world continues to grow, with this latest study revealing higher levels of incidents than previously accounted for, with event-counter reporting providing a new perspective on violent and aggressive incidents.  For now, the healthcare industry waits on legislation designed to tackle these issues, meaning that non-comprehensive measures and inconsistent WPV plans will remain a significant hurdle to improving safety. Ultimately, legislation must standardize the approach to tackling WPV issues and ensure that healthcare facilities are doing all they can to reduce, minimize, and control all violent and aggressive behaviors for the sake of all stakeholders.


For more information on how ROAR’s panic button solutions can help your facility take back control, contact us today to discuss your requirements or request a demo.

About Author

Yasmine Mustafa

Yasmine Mustafa believes ROAR found her, not the other way around. A former refugee and undocumented immigrant, she draws upon her unique life experiences to lead ROAR in its mission to empower and protect workers across all industries. Her journey is a testament to resilience and unwavering commitment. With over 15 years of leadership in the tech industry, including the successful sale of her first company, 123LinkIt, to a firm in Silicon Valley in 2009, Yasmine is a driving force for positive change, balancing profits with purpose. Yasmine’s workplace safety advocacy and leadership have earned recognition from the BBC, CNBC’s Upstart 100 and the City of Philadelphia. Yasmine is a highly sought-after conference speaker. A two-time TEDx speaker, Yasmine has also presented at the prestigious SXSW and CES conferences, sharing her deep passion for harnessing technology for positive change. Beyond her professional life, Yasmine enjoys time spent with friends and family, exploring the outdoors, biking, and hiking. She also dedicates her time to the boards of Coded by Kids, Leadership Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.

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