Catholic health system to replace all crucifixes

Hospital Sisters Health System, a Catholic organization based in Springfield, Ill., is removing all wooden and metal crucifixes from its hospitals' emergency departments and patient rooms. 

That decision is a response to "the changing healthcare landscape and the general increase in healthcare workers experiencing workplace violence," according to a Nov. 21 statement the health system shared with Becker's. The health system declined to specify if a specific event triggered the change. 

Safer replacements will be installed, keeping with the Franciscan standard, per the statement. 

"... [Our] facilities and supply chain services are working closely with our spiritual care leaders, have researched multiple options, and have identified several crosses that will be utilized for replacement and secured appropriately," a representative for the health system told Becker's Nov. 22. "As we are a large system with multiple facilities, a phased timing of safer replacements will be ongoing."

Healthcare and social services report the highest rates of nonfatal workplace injuries across all sectors — surpassing both manufacturing and construction by well over 100,000 incidents. As patient violence rises, individual health systems and states have taken various actions to protect their workers, from Rhode Island Hospital's anti-violence campaign to the Connecticut Hospital Association's code of conduct for patients and families. 

The issue has even made its way to Capitol Hill. The bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 12, and — if passed — will make it a federal crime to knowingly assault hospital workers. 

Removing the crucifixes was not Hospital Sisters' first line of defense, according to the statement. All employees are given "Management of Aggressive Behaviors" training, and direct care workers go through additional intensive training to learn de-escalation skills. The system also has active shooter trainings, silent alarms, 24/7 surveillance, emergency phones, and security and law enforcement presence. 

"We certainly don’t want to mislead anyone in thinking that we are at all moving away from our main tenets of Catholic healthcare," a representative from the health system told Becker's Nov. 22. "We continue to be a Franciscan-centered healthcare system in all policies and care delivery."

Editor's Note: This story was updated Nov. 22 at 9:11 a.m. CST to include more information about Becker's inquiries to the health system, and again at 1:37 p.m. CST to reflect the system's response.

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