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Healthcare heroes are getting assaulted and it's costing millions

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In 2020 the public is visiting hospitals and emergency departments more than ever. An unfortunate parallel increase can be seen in cases of violence against healthcare workers. What are the immediate and long term costs of workplace violence on healthcare organizations? And more importantly,  what can be done to minimize these costs and protect healthcare workers against the steady rise in workplace violence? 

What does violence against healthcare workers look like? And who is experiencing it? Violence against healthcare workers includes verbal threats and physical attacks by patients and coworkers. On average 21% of registered nurses and nursing students report being physically assaulted at work. 50% report being verbally abused. Workplace violence within the healthcare industry often goes unreported for a variety of reasons (lack of a reporting policy, lack of faith in the reporting system, fear of retaliation, etc.) so one can expect these statistics to be much higher in reality.

Immediate impacts and costs of workplace violence in healthcare. Absenteeism and medical care related to violence against healthcare workers are two immediate costs healthcare organizations incur. Violent instances within the workplace commonly result in missed days of work. In fact, within the healthcare and social assistance sectors, 13% of all days away from work were the result of workplace violence. Healthcare workers who experience workplace violence utilize roughly 112.8 hours per year of sick, disability, and leave time. Overall, absenteeism related to workplace violence cost hospitals $53.7 million per year. Additionally absenteeism places compounding stressors on staff members who are called upon to cover the shifts and duties of the absentee. Healthcare organizations also face the medical costs associated with instances of violence against healthcare workers. A study conducted in 2014 at a large U.S. urban/community hospital system showed that 2.1% of its nurses reported injuries from inpatient violence. 54 of these injuries resulted in average medical costs of $2,631 per injury, with an additional $508 in indemnity costs ($3,139 per incident).

Long term impacts and costs of workplace violence in healthcare. The American Nurses Association (ANA) found that less than 20% of nurses surveyed in 2001 felt safe in their current work environment. Repeated exposure to violence within the workplace leaves healthcare workers grappling with depression, anxiety, and physical/emotional distress. As a collective, healthcare worker teams experience burnout, consistent turnover, low departmental morale, and overall job dissatisfaction. With violence against healthcare workers continuing to rise it’s no surprise that RN turnover rates are following suite, 17.2% in 2015. The cost of RN turnover can have a profound impact on already diminishing hospital margins. The average cost of turnover for a bedside RN ranges from $37,700 to $58,400 resulting in the average hospital losing $5.2M – $8.1M

“The value hospitals and medical centers place on their people will have a direct correlation to their commitment, confidence and engagement. Enhancing culture and building programs to reinforce these values is critical to driving retention” (quote from the 2016 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report). 

What can be done? To strengthen their bottom line, it is within a hospital’s best interest to focus on providing a reliably safe work environment for their staff. This includes the examination of three key areas pertaining to workplace violence ….

  • Management commitment and worker participation.  Creating a safer workplace begins with commitments from both managing staff and healthcare workers to foster, participate in, and support each other in the effort to create a safer working environment. Healthcare workers are more likely to report instances of workplace violence if they know they are supported by their managing staff. This includes having specific and detailed procedures for dealing with and reporting workplace violence.
  • Safety and Technology. In addition to physical security measures such as cameras, swipe access cards, and the presence of security forces, technology and software play an impactful role in reducing instances of violence against healthcare workers.
    • Mass Notification Systems send critical information quickly and efficiently to healthcare workers. 911Cellular’s Mass Notification System allows administrators to send notifications to 10 different platforms, in multiple languages, and include community feedback engagement.
    • Mobile Safety Apps allow healthcare workers to signal for emergency assistance discreetly from their cell phones. 911Cellular’s Mobile Safety App is equipped with NIST tested technology that can locate an emergency activation down to the floor and room number in multi-story buildings. With the Hyper-Accurate Indoor Positioning System, safety forces are able to dramatically reduce their emergency response times. 
    • Computer Panic Buttons allow healthcare workers to initiate an emergency signal from any desktop computer, tablet, or laptop discreetly. Panic activations from 911Cellular’s Computer Panic Buttons (and all 911Cellular safety products) are managed easily by internal safety forces through the 911Cellular Portal. 
    • Panic Buttons can be worn by healthcare workers or easily installed throughout any building. 911Cellular Bluetooth Panic Buttons are easily worn on clothing or attached to key-chains and lanyards to provide healthcare workers peace of mind when they may not be able to access a computer or their smartphone to signal for assistance.
  • Education and Training – Workplace safety starts with education. All healthcare workers should receive workplace violence training upon arrival and on a yearly basis. The training should be specific and appropriate for the work being performed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a multitude of training resources regarding Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a free online training on Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses.

If you are interested in learning more about how 911Cellular’s solutions can help reduce workplace violence for your healthcare system, please visit our website at 911cellular.com

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