Rising violence against healthcare workers troubles health systems 

As violence against healthcare workers continues to rise, more hospitals are addressing ways to ensure their staff feel safe in the workplace. 

In an open letter to the community, Oneida (N.Y.) Health CEO Gene Morreale addressed the increasing issue of unruly patients. In the statement, Mr. Morreale said the health system, which serves around 100,000 patients, had seen 40 incidents of patient aggression, but said many more often go unreported.

He emphasized that despite signs across the hospital acknowledging the severity of the consequences for assaulting and harassing staff and training staff in de-escalation techniques, the aggression has continued. 

Another New York state health system, Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown, has dealt with similar challenges and in June implemented a panic button for staff. The Bluetooth-operated button system represents the first in the nation. When signaled, the duress alarm will alert employees and security personnel as to the location of the worker in danger. Later on in September, a Missouri hospital followed suit and also equipped hundreds of staff with panic buttons

This issue was around before the pandemic, though. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2018, healthcare workers are five times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall. This affects workers not just physically, but mentally as well, contributing to burnout and worsening turnover and churn. 

"The other day I talked to an Oneida Health nurse who was injured by an angry patient. The injury was not just the physical bruise, but also the emotional injury, both of which were very evident," wrote Mr. Morreale. "Until you are verbally or physically abused, it is difficult to appreciate the harm as well as the toll it takes on these hardworking, talented staff."

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