MHA's Friday Update Messages

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Hospitals as Safe Harbors

September 15, 2017 By: Carmela Coyle

Violence is a growing problem in our country, and Maryland is not immune to the threat. Baltimore now has the nation’s highest homicide rate, more than 51 for every 100,000 people. Statewide, there are more than 446 violent crimes for every 100,000 Marylanders. And more and more, hospital staff on the front lines of care are feeling the pain, sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally.

The rates of workplace violence in health care settings are five to 12 times higher than the estimated rates for workers overall, according to a Government Accountability Office report. As places of caring, compassion, and healing, hospitals must do all they can to shield patients and staff from violence.

Yesterday, I joined dozens of Maryland’s hospital workers – most of them nurses –to learn more about how they can make their hospitals safer for their colleagues and their patients, and how they can better cope with the day-to-day aspects of taking care of victims. The Forum on Workplace Violence, co-sponsored by MHA and the Maryland Nurses Association, featured presentations from experts on resiliency, so that employees can better cope with stress and crises, and best practices in hospital workplace violence prevention programs. (Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a video of the forum that we’ll share with all hospitals.)

The forum was a solid first step toward addressing this growing problem, and there are several concepts worth exploring further: the use of data and mapping to identify trends, the frequency of training for staff, and formal violence prevention hospital teams. Dr. Jane Lipscomb, professor at the University of Maryland Schools of Nursing and Medicine and co-author of a 2015 book on violence in the workplace, discussed some of the things hospitals can do – such as environmental safeguards and specific administrative protocols – to reduce the risk of harm to patients and staff. Maryland Healthcare Education Institute Director of Leadership and Engagement Katrina Coleman spoke of the importance of peer care to develop resiliency against violence.

And in a very informative panel, LifeBridge Health Director of Security Chuck Moore, University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center Director of Behavioral Health Services Dwight Holmes, and Sheppard Pratt Health System Associate Director of Nursing Jackie Williams-Porter, offered strategies from the front lines on mitigating the threat of violence in hospitals.

As you continue looking into how your organization might combat violence in your community and hospital, be sure to take advantage of the American Hospital Association’s yearlong Hospitals Against Violence initiative.

The nurses and others who attended yesterday, as well as their hospital colleagues across the state,  do a wonderful job taking care of people – that’s why nurses are widely seen as the most trusted people in a hospital. Nurses and others who work in hospitals deserve to be able to do their jobs free from violence, whether it’s the results of violence in the community or actual violence committed against them on their floors. We as a field must do all we can to ensure that the rich rewards of this honorable profession are not sullied by a societal trend toward violence.