A man is angry at his physician.

Violence in Healthcare

Steps You Can Take

Violence in health care has increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic. What can you do to counter it, and how do you handle a violent patient?

Everyone in the health care field is well aware that violence against healthcare workers has been increasing. Violence against health care workers skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 44% of nurses reporting physical abuse and 68% reporting verbal abuse. Violence can not only come from patients and/or their families/caregivers, but also from other staff members. It is important that all members of your team are aware of what violence looks like and how to handle a situation where they feel threatened.

4 Categories of Workplace Violence

Violence at work can be broken down into four categories:

  1. Criminal Intent: Acts of terrorism, etc. usually no business relationship
  2. Customer/client:  violence while providing a service
  3. Worker-on-worker
  4. Personal relationship (not a relationship with the business/service, but with the victim, such as domestic abuse)

It is important that your program address all four components, even if  you think they will never happen in your practice.

Can You Dismiss a Patient?

The most common question we receive from our practice managers is what they can do in the event they are threatened by a patient. Can they dismiss the patient immediately? The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” If violent behavior is present, the patient can usually be dismissed from the practice immediately.  The usual 30 days of care (depending on jurisdiction) of care to prevent an abandonment allegation is typically waived if a patient is violent.

Other Steps to Take

Every state should take a cue from Illinois, where legislation was passed to reduce violence in health care. Regardless of your state, there are two very important takeaways from this legislation that every healthcare facility can use:

  1. Post a sign in a very visible area which states: “Verbal abuse/aggression will not be tolerated and physical assault will be reported to law enforcement.”
  2. Create a workplace violence program and provide services to those affected by violence. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides guidance around workplace violence programs.

Reference:  https://www.natlawreview.com/article/illinois-hospitals-to-face-requirements-designed-to-reduce-violence-against-nurses