It’s a sad fact that workers who help ill and injured people are frequently the victims of violence. Workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities suffer the highest rate of assaults of any industry.
Your employer has a security plan to help keep you and your co-workers safe from harm. You also have responsibilities to help protect yourself and your fellow workers from violence.
Here are some of the things you can do:
1. Learn about the particular risks in your work area. For instance, patients in emergency and radiology departments may be violent because they are intoxicated, mentally ill, frightened or in pain. Victims of shootings or stabbings might be armed themselves, or somebody could be intent on finishing them off. Distraught friends and family members can get out of hand in intensive and coronary care areas.
2. Learn about the security equipment and procedures in place for your protection. Identification badges, security escorts, locked doors, alarm buttons or codes, and observation windows for monitoring potentially violent patients are some of the measures that may be in use.
3. Learn to recognize signs of potential violence in patients, hospital visitors and fellow workers. If someone is pacing around, restless, showing a clenched fist, speaking loudly and insistently, making threats or cursing, he or she may be working up to assaulting someone.
4. Be responsible for noticing unauthorized visitors. The typical healthcare facility has at least some public access and many entrances and exits, making it easy for people to get into restricted areas. “May I help you?” is a courteous way to halt an unauthorized visitor who simply might be lost. Contact security personnel if the situation warrants it.
5. Use a buddy system to avoid being alone or on your own with a potentially violent patient in a treatment room, elevator, deserted hallway or tunnel.
6. Be aware of furniture and other items that could be used for weapons. Don’t leave instruments or equipment within the reach of a potentially violent patient or visitor. You should also avoid wearing jewelry such as necklaces and scarves that could be used against you.
7. Never bypass security systems by trading identification badges, going around a metal detector or using the wrong entrance or exit to avoid the guard station. Don’t prop open doors that should be locked.
8. Be aware of the hazards as you come and go from work, particularly at night. Many hospitals are situated in high-crime areas. Carpooling, walking to and from vehicles with companions or escorts are possible safety measures.
9. Stay alert. Be aware of what is going on around you. Observe people and their body language.
10. Report unusual activity. Also, report any lights that may be out, such as in parking lots.
Whether working or commuting, trust your instincts. The suspicious person in the parking garage, the stranger in the supply room or the agitated relative of a heart attack victim could be harmless—or not. If you suspect something is wrong, get to a safe area and get help.