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Emergency Physicians, Nurses Call for End to ED Violence

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) united this week to launch the “No Silence on ED Violence” campaign to help protect those who work in the nation’s EDs.

ACEP and ENA are pooling their resources to raise awareness, educate, and advocate policymakers for legislative relief and their own organizational leaders to institute meaningful safety reforms.

In launching the campaign, the groups called the frequency of attacks in EDs “unconscionable and unacceptable. For medical professionals, being assaulted in the emergency department must no longer be tolerated as ‘part of the job.’”

“No nurse or physician in the emergency department — or any other healthcare professional — should feel unsafe. We’re there to care for people, not to have to question our own safety,” ENA President Patti Kunz Howard, PhD, RN, CEN, CPEN, TCRN, NE-BC, FAEN, FAAN, said in a statement.

Late last year, ACEP released the results of a poll of more than 3,500 U.S. emergency physicians, 47% of whom reported they were victims of physical assault at work. Because of this danger, nearly eight in 10 said patient care is affected, with 51% of those reporting patients also have been physically harmed.

Earlier this year, ACEP threw its weight behind proposed federal legislation: The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. This proposal would require the Department of Labor to toughen safety standards and employers to provide better education and conduct stronger investigations of violence. Some action has occurred in Congress on this proposal, but its future remains uncertain.

When a surgeon was shot and killed by a patient at a nearby hospital in 2015, clinicians at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care in Worcester overhauled its comprehensive violence prevention program. In the October 2019 issue of Hospital Employee Health, author Gary Evans interviewed Maria Michas, MD, MPH, FACOEM, medical director of employee health at UMass and chair of the task force that revised the program.

Over the last four years, Michas and her team have created a kind of blueprint other healthcare organizations could follow to help prevent violence. Notably, in a 2016 survey, Michas said employees identified behaviors that help them, patients, and families feel respected and supported. The resulting standards have become an organizational priority, with required employee participation in a series of workshops.

In the November 2019 issue of Healthcare Risk Management, Scott Cormier, an executive with Medxcel, a healthcare facilities management company, recommended training in this area for all hospital employees. However, he cautioned such education should not be too long (e.g., intense, full-day seminars that could lead to information overload).

“A better approach is to use shorter classes of maybe two hours, with monthly updates,” Cormier offered. “A team huddle also is a good opportunity once a month to talk about what we learned about workplace violence and how to prevent it. That way, it’s kept at the front of your mind and you don’t have to dig back so deep when something occurs to try to remember the right response.”