January 16, 2019
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What Safety Measures Do Healthcare Facilities Take to Combat Gun Violence?

As workplace violence becomes more prevalent, it is important for healthcare facilities to combat gun violence through vigilance and preventative measures. Hospitals and other caregiving environments face unique challenges because of the steady flow of people coming and going throughout the day and the special considerations needed to protect bed-ridden patients. Unfortunately, much of hospital violence is perpetrated by current or former patients, and care providers must have plans in place for deescalating potentially violent situations to minimize the amount of harm that can occur. Here are some ways that hospitals are taking their safety seriously.

Environmental Safety Designs

Hospitals are being proactive in their approach to gun violence prevention measures by including safety features in new building designs. Older treatment centers have increased their security by installing similar devices. It is standard for hospitals to install alarms throughout the building to signal an evacuation or lockdown due to a possible armed assailant. Some alarm systems include a silent panic button in each room that allows staff to alert one another of potential dangers without escalating the situation. Other facilities strategically install cameras that are watched around-the-clock by a security organization. New building designs prioritize the placement of emergency exits that prevent a group of patients or employees from being trapped in one part of the building without an escape.

Proactive Vigilance

Healthcare facilities provide trainings for their employees in conflict de-escalation. These trainings teach healthcare professionals to recognize the potential signs of an agitated individual who could pull out a gun or become physically violent in other ways. Verbal expressions of anger and frustration, threatening gestures, and signs of alcohol or drug use are all red flags that healthcare professionals learn to identify. They are taught to remain vigilant and continuously plan a route of escape for themselves and other patients in the room. While conflict de-escalation may work in situations with spontaneous offenders, predatory individuals executing planned attacks should not be reasoned with. Employees learn to identify the difference between the two, which creates a guide for effective and safe action.

Violence from Patients

The healthcare publication STAT reports that 75% of major injuries resulting from workplace assaults in 2013 were sustained by workers in the fields of health care and social services. Many of these incidents are due to the actions of patients. Traditionally, employees in psychiatric care facilities are trained in violence prevention that includes strategies to restrain violent patients without harming them. This training is now standard for all employees at many hospitals. Some of the most high-profile hospital gun violence is at the hands of former patients or family members who feel wronged by the care that they or their loved one received at the facility.Individuals who feel that their concerns are met with indifference or blame-shifting from their doctor or surgeon are more likely to later perpetrate violence at their hospital. Empathy training is an underrated but valuable tool that can teach healthcare professionals how to deescalate or prevent these types of gun violence scenarios.

Environmental controls, de-escalation training, and empathy training are proactive techniques meant to manage the risk of workplace violence in hospitals. As healthcare facilities prevent gun violence through these measures, they can better assure patients and employees of a safe environment.

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