The unfortunate but extraordinarily serious problem.
The emotions that are heightened during health care encounters and the
number of patients with behavioral issues make healthcare workers at a significantly increased risk for workplace violence. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported from 2002 to 2013 that serious workplace violence resulting in an injured worker requiring days off to recuperate were four times more common in healthcare than in private industry.
Not long ago, I spent some time walking in the shoes of Richard Ford, an electrician at Henry Ford Hospital who handles everything from keeping the music playing in the hallways to maintaining our overhead paging and fire systems.
This time around, I spent some time “riding” in the shoes of John Snitgen, a dedicated police officer who has worked at Henry Ford Hospital for more than 10 years.
John and our entire security team are responsible for keeping our hospital campus safe, and I learned more about some of the complexities our police officers face.
And they’re doing a great job: Thanks to our police officers, the crime rates on our campus are similar to or lower than reported crime rates in many suburban cities, such as downtown Birmingham.
We had an incident the other night in the hospital where a patient with known psychiatric problems became violent after an anticipated medical procedure was canceled. The patient’s family also became agitated and made verbal threats to staff.
In my discussions with other physicians and CEOs throughout the country, it appears patient violence issues, such as this one, are increasing.
It’s happening in both urban and suburban hospital environments – most recently at Johns Hopkins.
I believe that there are many causes for the increase in hospital violence:
The woefully inadequate inpatient and outpatient psychiatric facilities for those with long-standing behavioral problems;
Drug and alcohol dependency;
Stress related to finances;
And the stress a patient and his family experience during an acute illness.
A hospital needs to be a haven of safety in order to be an oasis of healing.