You can reduce violent attacks in hospitals

In a new brochure on workplace violence in hospitals, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) outlines steps employers and employees can take to reduce violent events.

NIOSH notes that many violent events result from agitated patients or family members who feel "frustrated, vulnerable, and out of control."

Assaults in hospitals occur at a rate of 8.3 assaults per 10,000 workers, compared to two per 10,000 for nonfatal assaults for all private-sector industries, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

NIOSH offers these tips to prevent violence:

Watch for signals that may be associated with impending violence:

  • verbally expressed anger and frustration;
  • body language such as threatening gestures;
  • signs of drug or alcohol use;
  • presence of a weapon.

Maintain behavior that helps diffuse anger:

  • Present a calm, caring attitude.
  • Don’t match the threats.
  • Don’t give orders.
  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings (for example, "I know you are frustrated").
  • Avoid any behavior that may be interpreted as aggressive (for example, moving rapidly, getting too close, touching, or speaking loudly).

Be alert:

  • Evaluate each situation for potential violence when you enter a room or begin to relate to a patient or visitor.
  • Be vigilant throughout the encounter.
  • Don’t isolate yourself with a potentially violent person.
  • Always keep an open path for exiting. Don’t let the potentially violent person stand between you and the door.

Take these steps if you can’t defuse the situation quickly:

  • Remove yourself from the situation.
  • Call security for help.
  • Report any violent incidents to management staff.