As we enter a new year, the threat of workplace violence—or “WPV”—continues its unrelenting rise across all industries. But no single sector is feeling the looming presence of WPV more than healthcare. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence compared to employees in other industries.

Already grappling with the daily stresses of caring for the sick and wounded and dealing with the constant potential for loss of life, the increasing danger posed by WPV has added apprehension and additional concern to an already challenging environment.

Unquestionably, one can point to 2020 and the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the intensification of violence against healthcare professionals—but the trend has persisted. In a spring 2022 survey conducted by National Nurses United, 48% of respondents reported a surge in workplace violence, an increase of nearly 120% over the previous year. And in the most vulnerable area of the hospital where emotions run highest—the emergency department—a staggering 70% of emergency room employees say they’ve experienced physical assaults while on duty.

Triggers for WPV in Healthcare

Why is WPV more prevalent in healthcare? Of course, there are unsurprising factors that contribute to heightened risk, among them, family and friends acting out in grief, fear, and uncertainty over the condition of their loved ones. 

But recently, rising healthcare costs, growing confusion about medication and care methodology, frustration stemming from staffing shortages, gender and racial discrimination, and political and social unrest have compounded the problem. Though newer, these trends add to the ever-present threat of violence against healthcare workers, and particularly emergency personnel.

Whatever the reason, the WPV threat in this sector is pervasive and remains persistent.

What Can Be Done?

As hospital groups and healthcare facilities are finding, mitigating the workplace violence threat requires a multi-faceted approach. While professionals wait for protective legislation at state and federal levels, many healthcare providers are taking steps to tackle risk right now.

Some have implemented round-the-clock security measures within their facilities, including armed personnel and flagging policies that identify past violent offenders. And others have initiated vital training programs focused on educating hospital staff on WPV prevention and de-escalation techniques.

Updated practices like these and more can empower healthcare employees to navigate the challenging landscape they face daily. It is incumbent upon us to fortify those on the front lines, and safeguard those who devote their lives to preserving and improving ours.

With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, active shooter preparedness and response, situational awareness, de-escalation techniques, and more, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.