August 23, 2016

How these nurses are leading the charge against workplace violence

Daily Briefing

    Nurses at Providence Hospital are leading the charge to reduce workplace violence, Labor Notes reports.

    According to a review article published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 75 percent of all workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 occurred in the health care industry. Some believe that it's an unavoidable risk of the job—but Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) Chief Negotiator Andrea Fox said that isn't the case.

    In the late 1990s, MNA began working with nurses at Providence to create a safer working environment to combat patient violence against providers. They collaborated on adding modest language to the nurses' bargaining agreement, in which the hospital acknowledged its  "responsibility to provide safe and clean building and grounds."

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    In 2003, MNA sought to include a more concrete nurse protection plan in nurses' contracts. Providence nurses spoke up about violent incidents at work, how management responded, and how employees would recommend preventing episodes in the future.

    Evelyn Bain, a health and safety expert with MNA, said, "It was important to find champions for the issue, nurses who could get others interested and primed for action."

    The advocacy led Providence to include several contract provisions that established new workplace protection requirements, including:

    • Procedures for weapon detection and confiscation;
    • ID badges that identify nursing staff by only their first name and title;
    • Security surveillance and adequate lighting of all grounds and parking areas;
    • Security escort for nurses leaving the building to their vehicles, upon request;
    • De-escalation training for potential assault situations; and
    • Medical and psychological services for workers affected by violence.

    With patient-on-clinician violence rising, hospitals look for solutions

    The contract also created a Workplace Violence Task Force, which regularly reviews and updates the hospital safety manual, reviews incident reports, and develops new policies as needed.

    The task force also reviews workplace logs from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to identify trends in health care violence and other safety issues that could affect staff.

    "That's how we figure out trends, in workplace violence or more generally in health and safety," Fox said. "Are people getting sick from the wrong wax being applied to floors? Are certain hospital units developing problems? Is violence more prevalent on a certain time of day like change of shift?" (Budryk, FierceHealthcare, 8/17; Fox et al., Labor Notes, 8/16).

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