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Health care facilities can have robust violence prevention plans, but if employees fear being reprimanded for calling security or are afraid they might be overreacting, the measures are less likely to be effective, experts say.
Procedures must be in place for recording incidents and near-misses, and staff need to feel comfortable making a report and know how to do so, said Renata Elias, Dallas-based senior vice president in the consulting solutions practice of Marsh Advisory, a unit of Marsh LLC.
“The big concern from people is they want to be anonymous … and feel like they can make a phone call (to a hotline) when they see something,” she said. “Having that open dialogue to let employees know there is a safe place to speak out is important.”
Health care staff can “almost get immune” to violent incidents, particularly verbal abuse, because of how common they are in the health care setting, said Njoki Wamiti, senior vice president of Ironshore Insurance, a Liberty Mutual company. “They may think this is normal, so there is no need to report it.”
Employers need to train workers on situational awareness — being aware that if a situation makes them uncomfortable it’s time to ask for help, said Pamela Popp, Denver-based executive vice president and chief risk officer of GB Healthcare, a division of Gallagher Bassett Services Inc.
It’s equally important to follow up and show how the report and the solution helped improve security for all, she said.
“People are fearful of reporting because they don’t know what happens to the information once it’s shared,” Ms. Popp said. “As soon as you can, show them that action is taken and that it’s a positive thing that they are reporting. Near-misses are the same type of thing. We have to get them to trust that we’re going to use the information to make things better.”
Violence against health care workers has been on the rise in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the risks even worse for doctors, nurses and support staff.