Healthcare News & Insights

Why patient violence happens in hospitals – and how you can stop it

Preventing patient violence in hospitals is important. But to do so effectively, hospitals must first find out the most common reasons why patients turn violent. New research sheds light on this topic.

487857751According to an article in Reuters Health, to get a general idea of the reasons why violence happens in hospitals, a team of researchers analyzed all violent incident reports for one year in a large hospital system in the Midwest. The results of the study were published in the Journal for Advanced Nursing.

The Midwestern hospital system had facilities in both cities and suburban areas, and a variety of different types of hospitals.

Regardless of location, each hospital had multiple violent incidents in the year examined. After looking at each incident, researchers saw that most violence fell into three categories:

  1. Patient behavior and characteristics. Problems with patient behavior caused the most violent incidents in the hospital system. The most common issues related to patient behavior that led to violence were cognitive impairment (usually caused by factors like dementia and intoxication) and cases where patients were upset and wanted to leave the hospital.
  2. Delivering care. Many of these incidents happened when clinicians were performing tasks involving needles (like blood draws) or moving patients from one area of the hospital to another. And any treatment that caused discomfort was more likely to make a patient turn violent.
  3. Situational events. These incidents took place during specific situations in the hospital, such as admission, discharge and directing patients back to their hospital rooms.

Stopping hospital violence

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital workers face a higher risk of violence (an average of 8.3 assaults per 10,000 workers) than those in many other occupations in the private sector (2 per 10,000 workers). So it’s crucial to train staff on how to handle violent situations.

Knowing what causes violent incidents can help hospitals develop training programs for clinical staff. While the info from this study is a good starting point to see which types of situations are likely causes of violence, it may be more helpful to conduct a similar analysis of violent incidents that’s specific to your hospital.

Once you’ve taken a look at the violent incidents in your facility, the next step is to create a unique violence prevention program for your hospital. Besides staff training, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that an effective program contains:

  • a written plan that states management’s position on hospital safety, and expresses concern for staff’s safety and well-being
  • a clear understanding of the specific hazards and threats of violence workers may face
  • policies and practices to prevent and control violent behavior, and
  • recordkeeping and reporting protocol so progress can be regularly evaluated.

OSHA offers hospitals more help in curbing violent incidents through its Hospital eTool, which goes into more detail about each program element.

With an effective violence prevention program in place at your hospital, you’ll be better able to prepare staff to address any violent incidents – and cut down the likelihood of a situation getting out of hand.

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