How Dartmouth Health handles violence toward staff

Last year, workplace violence was the fifth most common cause of workplace injury at Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth Health, and nurses were the most affected group.

In recognition of the American Hospital Association's Hospitals Against Violence day on June 2, the health system shared some of the efforts it takes to prevent violence and abuse, as well as how it responds to such incidents.

On June 1, Dartmouth's Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, Vt., unveiled a large sign near its emergency department entrance detailing its zero-tolerance policy for "physical assaults, threatening behavior, weapons, abusive language, sexual harassment or illegal drugs on the premises," the system said in a news release. 

Dartmouth has a committee that reviews every instance of violence on a case-by-case basis and meets routinely to develop strategies, said Rich Mello, Dartmouth Health's director of security.

"For a patient who receives outpatient services, an act of violence may result in being dismissed from the system, depending on the event," he said. "It may also result in a 'behavior contract' or note in the chart that security must be present for future appointments. For an inpatient case, we cannot summarily dismiss a patient from care. Therefore, we may institute other responses, such as a round-the-clock security presence. For severe incidents of patients assaulting our staff, we will seek prosecution."

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