Overall rudeness has increased over the last two years due in large part to stress stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and hospitals and other healthcare facilities often are at the center of the issue. A report by The Joint Commission found that healthcare workers are four times more likely to fall victim to verbal or physical abuse than workers in any other industry. That number is likely higher as many incidents often go unreported.
Violence has escalated in recent weeks. Earlier this month, five people were killed in a mass shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That same day, two people were shot and killed at a hospital in Dayton, Ohio.
Healthcare systems are calling on members of Congress to pass stronger gun regulations. Meanwhile, 10 CEOs from Minnesota Healthcare Systems have declared gun violence a public health crisis in a public statement.
“As leaders of some of our state’s health care systems, we believe it is time to declare gun violence as a public health crisis and to work to prevent the deaths of innocent people of all ages and backgrounds,” according to the statement. “We must look no further than the recent shootings on a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a school in Uvalde, Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and countless others just this past year to see its devastating impacts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 more than 19,000 American lives were lost due to homicide involving a gun. That same year, guns became the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. These statistics are appalling and outrage us as healthcare providers and should outrage us all. Everyone deserves a world where they can feel safe and live their lives without fear of gun violence.
“As healthcare providers, we see the impacts of gun violence firsthand every day,” the statement continues. “We uniquely understand the devastation of this violence in our hospitals and clinics, and the toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and the care providers who treat the victims. We have an important role to play in creating a safer future for all.”
Minnesota healthcare facilities aren’t the only ones that are speaking up. The CEOs of The Permanente Medical Group, Northwell Health and Children’s Minnesota have signed a letter to the senate urging them to take action on gun control.
“We urge the Senate to take immediate action,” according to the letter. “Gun violence can be prevented. Our families, our communities, and our places of business are depending on you. Stand with us and the American public. Put the safety of your constituents and their children first. Transcend partisanship and work together to pass bold legislation to address gun violence in our country.”
A bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on principle for gun safety legislation, which includes “needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” according to CNN. The legislation also includes a “red flag provision” that allows for the government to provide resources to states and tribes to ‘create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves and others.”
Earlier this year, the state of Wisconsin passed a law that would make it a felony to threaten a healthcare worker. The bill expands a 2020 law that made battery against a nurse, emergency care provider or an individual working in the emergency department a felony. That is not the state’s only initiative. In May, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation requiring healthcare and social service employers to implement a workplace violence prevention plan in order to better avoid and reduce workplace violence among employees. With the legislation, it would direct OSHA to require employers to write and implement their plan.
Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Utah have drafted or submitted legislation that aims to protect healthcare workers. In addition to these laws, hospitals and healthcare facilities must have a de-escalation plan in place in the event of workplace violence. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare workers experienced 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018.
“To lower violence in healthcare facilities, a collaborative team should be developed with the specific mission of mitigating violence within the facility,” says Daniel O’Neill with ADRM Security. “Staff members can play a key role in violence reduction. Training to use de-escalation techniques is very effective and has been used successfully at many major healthcare facilities.”
Hospitals often are emotionally demanding places for patients and guests, and by addressing security vulnerabilities, healthcare officials hope to reduce acts of violence. When you examine the likelihood, consequences, vulnerability and velocity in hospital settings, these factors could trigger someone to react negatively.
“Healthcare facilities need to understand that during a disaster, they are a critical asset to their community,” says Scott Cormier, vice president of emergency management, EC, and safety with Medxcel. “Closing or curtailing services because you do not have an adequate plan or resources is not an option. We need to be resilient and have a proper plan and process to ensure we are making the right decisions so we can continue to be that critical asset to our communities, as well as protect our patients and staff.”
Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor with the facilities market.