Indiana hospital gives employees 'personal duress buttons'

In the first seven months of 2023, staff at Columbus (Ind.) Regional Health reported 100 incidents of violence, The Republic reported Aug. 20. 

That's an increase from 86 reports during the same time period last year, and 84 during the entire year of 2021. Fifteen of this year's incidents have been forwarded to local prosecutors, according to the newspaper. 

In addition to increasing de-escalation training for staff and creating a new reporting system, the hospital has launched its own police force. Staff in some areas now wear "personal duress buttons" on their clothes; if the buttons are pressed, hospital police officers are immediately dispatched to their location. 

Tony Pope, the hospital's police chief — who is also vice president, secretary and a board member of the International Association for Healthcare, Safety and Security — told the newspaper the rising number of incidents isn't the only problem. The level of violence has also increased. 

"In the past, we saw a lot of threatening behavior, maybe somebody throwing a food tray at someone or in their direction, squeezing somebody's hand, but we're seeing events now where staff members are getting punched, they're getting kicked, they're getting spat on," Mr. Pope said.

Violence against healthcare workers is rising nationwide; healthcare and social services employees recorded 453,000 nonfatal injuries in 2021, higher than any other industry, including manufacturing and construction. In a recent poll from Becker's on LinkedIn, more than 20 percent of respondents said their hospital does not have a plan in place to protect workers. 

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