Health Care Workplace Violence Accreditation Standards: Compliance Is Just the First Step

David Flynn

Creating a safer, more secure, and positive workplace environment for health care workers, patients and visitors.

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A mere two weeks after the Uvalde school shooting, 33 additional mass shootings had occurred in the United States, according to the Guardian. One of these included an Oklahoma gunman who killed four people, including the surgeon who treated him. Another reported incident occurred where a man stabbed a doctor and two nurses inside a Southern California hospital emergency ward.

Targeted Violence Risks are Higher in Health Care Settings

According to the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, “Workplace violence is four times more likely to occur in health care than other settings, with more than one-fifth of nurses reporting physical assaults.” Likewise, the Joint Commission notes that approximately 75% of nearly 25,000 annual workplace assaults occur in health care settings, with 30% of nurses and 26% of emergency department physicians reporting violent incidents. As the American Journal of Managed Care points out, the risk of violence is so high that many health care workers simply view it as “part of the job.”

The Joint Commission Recently Updated Its Accreditation Standards

Health care facilities enact various measures to manage the risks of workplace violence on their premises, although, based on our experience, many do not do so comprehensively and consistently. Among the best baselines for workplace violence prevention in health care are accreditation standards authored by the Joint Commission.

The organization recently updated its recommendations, which include the following:

  • Implement a process to continually monitor, report, and investigate suspicious people and incidents.
  • Conduct an annual analysis of the workplace violence prevention program. The analysis should include events that have taken place during the past year.
  • Implement mitigation and resolution processes based on needs realized after previous incidents.
  • Designate one person in charge of the workplace violence prevention program.
  • Establish a dedicated team using appropriate personnel to handle incidents.

We can expect additional helpful guidance from the Joint Commission in the future. It is working now to incorporate workplace violence prevention within the scope of its assessed safety and security procedures, including requiring training and education on workplace violence mitigation, response and reporting.

What We Recommend

When we work with health care networks and enterprises, we suggest that they view accreditation as just the first key threshold in managing their workplace violence prevention risks. Beyond the required accreditation and compliance with standards, take the following actions as well:

  1. Establish and communicate procedures to ensure you have open and consistent reporting of potential and actual violence in the workplace.
  2. Provide ongoing training to all staff - predicated upon their roles - as to policies concerning workplace violence prevention, including reporting and intervening as methods of response and prevention.
  3. Ensure the visibility of executive and management support for staff safety, as well as a safe space that encourages open and transparent communication.

If you take these steps and others, you’ll do more than save lives and prevent harm in the future. You’ll improve your ability to reduce the high costs of lawsuits, liability and fines while protecting the reputation of your institution or facility. You’ll also create a safer, more secure, and positive workplace environment for your health care workers, patients, visitors, and the broader community. These are the outcomes that matter to us.

Jensen Hughes specializes in helping employers create and sustain safe workplace environments that prevent violent incidents, mitigate risks, and advance business and mission objectives. Reach out to us if you need help or are interested in learning more about our services.

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