No place for workplace violence at Penn Medicine

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, has made it his mission to address and find solutions for the ongoing workplace violence concerns in healthcare.

The focus comes after a recent report revealed that 25% of clinicians have seen an increase in workplace violence over the last year and 48% said safety protocols to protect employees have not been implemented by their employer. 

"Health systems and hospitals have a duty to provide the safest and most secure working environments possible to those who have answered this call. It's the right thing to do – and necessary for the profession's sustainability," Mr. Mahoney said in a Penn Medicine May 9 news blog

UPHS began taking major steps to improve employee safety in 2019 through a multimillion-dollar, institution wide approach that addresses threats, foresees and ends situations deemed to be dangerous before they can happen. 

Some of the steps include standardizing approaches to security threats, classifying what should be considered a security event, gathering and analyzing data related to security incidents, and coordinating procedures across areas like outpatient facilities, home care and multispecialty care centers.

"In traditional security models, officers respond to an event," Mr. Mahoney said in the blog. "By gathering and analyzing data around these incidents, security personnel can identify patterns and better prepare for or prevent safety risks."

The health system also invested $28 million into security systems for its hospital and multispecialty outpatient facility entrances, which can detect weapons, like knives or guns. The screening project, which is nearly complete with its first phase, has already detected and kept hundreds of weapons from entering Penn Medicine on a monthly basis. 

De-escalation training programs and providing clinical employees who work in patient homes or high-risk healthcare units with duress badges are two other initiatives that the health system has invested in to improve healthcare worker safety. 

Mr. Mahoney pointed to the bipartisan SAVE Act as a useful tool that could help protect healthcare workers from intimidation and assault by providing $25 million in grants to hospital violence reduction programs over a 10-year period. 

The American Hospital Association also shared eight components that can help hospitals create a safer culture in its recent "Building a Safe Workplace and Community: Violence Mitigation in a Culture of Safety" guide. 

The eight components are leadership, effective communication, education and training, reporting and data collection, trust and respect, collaboration with law enforcement, partnering with community-based organizations, and health equity. 

"Enhancements to physical safety can positively influence psychological safety, contributing to heightened comfort among patients and the workforce," the AHA guide said. "A comprehensive approach to promote physical safety cultivates a secure environment enabling individuals to engage, work and seek care without fear of harm."

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