Violent patients were inflicting a growing number of injuries on nurses and doctors at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., so hospital officials decided to act.
Last year, they adopted a three-pronged strategy to protect nurses, doctors and other hospital staffers. The hospital stepped up training, created a special de-escalation unit with teams on call 24/7 and purchased mobile alert tags that staff could secure to their badges or lanyards and discreetly notify the unit in situations of duress.
“This was a holistic approach to workplace injuries,” said Daniel Coss, director of security and public safety at Valley Hospital. These protective measures focused on the emergency department, where staff are especially prone to injuries.
More than three-quarters of emergency physicians experience at least one violent incident at work annually, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.
A survey conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association in 2009 found that a quarter of emergency nurses had experienced physical violence more than 20 times in the past three years.
Education and training are vital in preventing and dealing with these incidents.
“You can recognize signs of incipient violence and mitigate it,” said Lisa Wolf, director of the Institute for Emergency Nursing Research at the Emergency Nurses Association, who was not involved in Valley Hospital's efforts. “Awareness training is a great idea,” she said, because violence in healthcare settings is common, yet all too often is regarded as merely part of the job rather than a problem to be addressed.