Increasing workplace violence in healthcare facilities is fueling repeated calls for improved regulation and formalized efforts to prevent and address the problem. On Monday, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association renewed demands, issued before by stakeholders in government or healthcare, for better training, prevention programs and reporting mechanisms.
“A workplace violence prevention program should be a required component of the patient safety system of all health care organizations,” wrote the authors, Ron Wyatt and Kim Anderson-Drevs of the Joint Commission and Lynn Van Male of the Veterans Health Administration.
U.S. hospitals have seen an uptick in violent crime in recent years, the article noted. In 2012, rates of violence stood at 2 events per 100 beds; by 2015, it was 2.8 events per 100 beds. Some departments were more affected than others. Of aggravated assaults, for instance, 44% took place in the emergency room.
Healthcare workers, and among them women in particular, are disproportionately affected by workplace violence. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that of all workplace injuries, less than 20% involve healthcare workers, the article noted. Yet half of all assaults in the workplace involve healthcare workers, attacks that most frequently target female nursing staff and psychiatric assistants, the article pointed out.
In 2011, more than 22,000 violent incidents were reported at healthcare workplaces in the U.S. But the actual number of occurrences may be quadruple that, according to a review published in April by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Reported cases of violence against healthcare workers rose 12% from 2011 to 2013, from 22,250 in 2011 to more than 24,000.
That finding led to a call from several Democrats in Congress for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement requirements for workplace violence prevention programs, over voluntary guidance the agency issued two decades ago.