From Awareness to Action: Combating Workplace Violence in Hospitals 

Workplace violence is prevalent in all industries, especially healthcare. Learn how to detect and prevent workplace violence in hospitals and keep patients, staff, and visitors safe. 

June 30, 2023 · READ

You’ve likely noticed how certain industries seem to have a secret language that only they seem to understand. Some, like “code red,” meaning “fire,” are universally well-known. Others, like “10-43,” can have different meanings depending on location. These codes can confidentiality convey information or increase safety.  

In industries like law enforcement and healthcare, these codes ultimately contribute to better outcomes and the well-being of their employees and the public they serve. When considering workplace violence in healthcare settings, it was reported in 2022 that, since the COVID-19 pandemic, 44% of nurses experienced increased physical violence, and 68% experienced increased verbal abuse. 

With the high-stress and challenging nature of the job, healthcare workers will always face some level of risk. However, there are ways to minimize the risk of workplace violence in healthcare settings. Understanding and routinely assessing the causes of workplace violence in healthcare can create a better environment for staff and patients alike. But first, it’s imperative to be able to detect the signs in order to prevent the threat.  

What constitutes workplace violence in hospitals?

 Workplace violence refers to any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or disruptive behavior that occurs within a work setting. It’s an unfortunate reality that can take many forms. This can be a verbal argument that escalates into a physical altercation, harassment or bullying by a colleague or supervisor, or even external threats from clients, customers, or strangers who enter the workplace. It encompasses a range of behaviors and actions, including: 

  • Physical violence: Any form of physical aggression or assault, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, or using weapons to harm or intimidate others in the workplace. 
  • Verbal abuse: The use of offensive language, threats, derogatory remarks, or verbal intimidation that can create a hostile or intimidating atmosphere for individuals in the workplace. 
  • Harassment: Unwanted and repeated behavior, including sexual harassment, that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It can involve unwanted advances, inappropriate comments, or any form of behavior targeting someone based on race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics. 
  • Bullying: Persistent, intentional, and aggressive behavior aimed at demeaning, belittling, or intimidating others. Workplace bullying can include verbal abuse, humiliation, social isolation (as in ignoring or not including a coworker), or sabotaging someone’s work. 
  • Threats and intimidation: Explicit or implicit threats of harm, either physical or psychological, made by one individual towards another or a group of individuals in the workplace. Threats can be expressed in person, through written communication, or electronically. 

It’s important to note that workplace violence can be perpetrated by anyone within or outside the organization, including employees, supervisors, clients, customers, or even strangers. The severity and impact of workplace violence in healthcare can vary, ranging from minor incidents to life-threatening situations. Recognizing and addressing these forms of workplace violence is crucial to create a safe and healthy work environment for all individuals involved.   

In addressing workplace violence in healthcare or any other industry, conducting a thorough security audit is essential to identify potential triggers or vulnerabilities within the organization. These assessments could include assessing physical security measures, such as access controls and surveillance systems, and evaluating organizational factors like work-related stress, inadequate staffing levels, or poor communication that may contribute to the risk of violence. 

Recognizing workplace violence in healthcare 

When it comes to workplace violence in healthcare, it’s important to be aware of the signs that could indicate potential trouble. Recognizing these signs early on can help healthcare professionals take proactive measures to prevent incidents and ensure their safety. Some common indicators that might suggest the presence of workplace violence at healthcare sites are: 

Aggressive or hostile behavior 

Individuals who display frequent outbursts of anger, use offensive language, or have an aggressive attitude toward colleagues, patients, or visitors should be monitored. These behaviors can be warning signs of potential violence, and healthcare professionals should be alert when interacting with people who display these behaviors.  

Intimidation and threats  

Healthcare workers should pay attention to any instances of verbal or written threats, whether directed toward coworkers, supervisors, or patients. Threats of harm, either direct or veiled, should never be taken lightly. Intimidation could look like individuals being subjected to persistent verbal abuse, humiliation, or bullying from their colleagues or superiors. 

Increased tension and conflict 

A noticeable escalation in conflicts, disputes, or disagreements within the workplace can be an early sign of underlying tension that could potentially lead to violence, including both verbal arguments and physical altercations. 

Unpredictable or erratic behavior 

Being alert to any sudden changes in behavior or mood swings that seem out of character for a particular individual is vital to detecting workplace violence in hospitals. Erratic behavior, irrationality, or expressions of extreme frustration could indicate a risk of violence. Behaviors to monitor can also include someone who exhibits an unusual fixation on a particular colleague, supervisor, or patient. 

Substance abuse 

Substance abuse issues can contribute to increased aggression and impaired judgment, making individuals more prone to violent behavior. Those who work in healthcare should watch for signs of substance abuse among their colleagues and patients alike to determine a potential incident of workplace violence. 

Recognizing these signs doesn’t mean you should automatically assume the worst. It means being vigilant and noting any unusual or concerning behaviors that could indicate a potential risk. If you notice any of these signs or feel uncomfortable or unsafe in your work environment, it’s crucial to report your observations to the appropriate authorities or follow the established protocols within your organization. 

Proactive measures to prevent workplace violence in healthcare 

It’s crucial to take steps that not only detect potential workplace violence in hospitals but also prevent it from occurring in the first place. By implementing these proactive measures, healthcare providers can create a safer work environment for themselves and their colleagues.   

  • Creating a culture of safety and zero tolerance: Fostering a culture where safety and respect are paramount, implementing a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence in hospitals, and clearly communicating it to all staff ensures that everyone understands the consequences of violating this policy, letting staff know that their safety is a priority.  
  • Implementing comprehensive violence prevention policies and protocols: Develop and enforce comprehensive policies and protocols specifically designed to address workplace violence, including guidelines on identifying and reporting incidents and procedures for investigating and responding to them promptly. 
  • Staff training on conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques: Providing training on conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques equips staff with effective communication skills to defuse potentially volatile situations before they escalate into violence. This training can help staff respond appropriately and maintain control in challenging encounters. 
  • Assessing and improving physical security measures:Conduct regular assessments of the physical layout and security features of healthcare facilities. Enhance security measures such as access controls, surveillance systems, and alarms to deter potential acts of violence to contribute to a safer environment and help mitigate workplace violence in hospitals.
  • Controlling access and implementing visitor management systems: Implementing strict access control measures, especially in high-risk areas, to monitor and track individuals entering the facility ensures that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive areas, which can prevent unauthorized individuals from causing harm. 

By adopting these measures, healthcare providers and administration can contribute to a secure and respectful work environment that prioritizes the well-being and safety of all individuals.  

How Resolver’s threat protection services solution can help to detect and prevent workplace violence in hospitals

Even the best threat assessments and precautions can’t entirely prevent workplace violence in hospitals or anywhere else. That’s why many companies turn to Resolver’s threat protection solution  to identify threats before they turn into costly incidents. Whether your leading indicator comes from an employee hotline, a suspicious log via an access reporting system, the dark web, or social media, Resolver burns the haystack so you can find the needle.  

Once a potential threat is identified, Resolver’s market-leading case and investigation management software, with access to our highly-skilled threat management experts and built-in assessment methodologies, like RAGE-V, ensure your team can effectively qualify or discredit the threat. Once the threat is qualified, our platform provides workflow management tools to ensure a timely and accurate response. And our built-in data analytics platform ensures you can report on the impact of the threat program and the value of security investments.

Your workplace and everyone in it deserve the best protection technology can offer. Watch our Four Pillars of Successful Threat Protection Programs webinar and discover how Resolver can elevate your physical security and public safety programs to keep staff, patients, and visitors to your healthcare site safe. 

Request a Demo

I'd like to learn more about
  • I'd like to learn more about
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Incident Management
  • IT Risk
  • IT Compliance
  • Investigations Management
  • Security Operations Management
  • Compliance
  • Security Audit
  • Loss Prevention
  • Brand Protection
  • ESRM
  • Internal Audit
  • Internal Control (SOX)
  • Third Party Risk Management
  • Threat Assessment

I agree to receive promotional email messages from Resolver Inc about its products and services. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.

By submitting this form you agree to Resolver's Terms Of Service and Privacy Policy.