Vermont system adopts zero-tolerance policy on violence against staff

Southwestern Vermont Health Care has debuted a new policy to prevent aggressive and violent behavior toward its healthcare staff, the Bennington, Vt.-based system said Feb. 2. Like many hospitals across the nation, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has seen an increase in the proportion of staff reporting violent behavior from patients and visitors. 

Since 2021, 61 percent of medical and nursing staff at the hospital have reported physically aggressive behavior, and 49 percent have reported verbal abuse. The new policy has been posted throughout Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's campus, making clear that it will not tolerate "threatening language, foul language, sexual comments, physical violence or inappropriate touching." These behaviors will result in removal from the facility "and/or prosecution to the fullest extent of the law," the policy states. 

"Southwestern Vermont Health Care is committed to a care community that respects and recognizes the value of human diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, age, socio-economic status, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability and religion," Trey Dobson, MD, the health system's chief medical officer, said in a statement. "Being physically assaulted, intimidated or verbally harassed will no longer be tolerated as 'part of the job' at our community hospital and practices."

In November, Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham made headlines when it instituted a patient code of conduct to protect staff from harassment and discriminatory behavior. Violations of the code may result in patients being directed to seek nonemergency future care elsewhere. 

"Just as we have policies for our employees and clinicians to treat each other and every patient and visitor with courtesy and respect, this policy helps to define appropriate behaviors for patients, family members, visitors and research participants," Mass General Brigham said in a statement to FOX affiliate WFXT in a Nov. 4 report.

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