5 Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare

Prevent workplace violence with these five key elements to improve the well-being of providers.

Preventing workplace violence is a nationwide problem in the United States, and statistics show that healthcare workers are the most vulnerable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the healthcare industry experiences four times the national average of violent incidents in the workplace.

Even worse–80% of worker injuries resulting in missed workdays were caused by patients. This leaves providers in a difficult position where they must protect themselves from the people they’re trying to help. In order to prioritize their staff’s well-being, healthcare organizations need to enact strategic proactive and reactive measures to avert crises and ensure everyone’s safety.

[RELATED: COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers, Families, and Leadership]


To fix the problem of workplace violence we must first understand what’s happening. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, there are four types of workplace violence:

  • Type I violence has criminal intent attached. The perpetrator has no affiliation with the business or any employees and typically happens in connection with a robbery or other crime. Type I violence is least prevalent in healthcare, but can still occur.
  • Type II violence encompasses patient-on-worker incidents, including family members and visitors of patients. Type II violence is the most common in healthcare. It’s especially prolific in emergency rooms, psychiatric treatment facilities, penal healthcare, and geriatric care.
  • Type III violence occurs between employees. While it is referred to as lateral violence, it is most often aimed at people lower on the corporate ladder, such as supervisor to employee violence. It can also occur after a romance between coworkers. Bullying, unfair treatment, and other humiliating or demeaning acts also fall under type III violence.
  • Type IV violence involves a personal relationship between the attacker and victim, but not the workplace. This occurs when a spouse, ex-lover, or family member comes to attack an employee. Hospital workers should be well versed in any issues dealing with domestic violence.

Researchers at Reuters Health recently studied triggers of patient-on-employee assaults. After studying 214 incidents over the course of a year from seven hospitals, they discovered three main causes:

  1. Cognitive impairment, such as intoxication or mental problems. In many of these cases the patient was attempting to leave.
  2. Close proximity. Many incidents occurred when the worker was working close to the patient, hooking equipment to them, moving them, injecting them with needles, etc.
  3. Situational. The remaining incidents occur during transitions. This includes admissions or discharge, giving information to patients, or intervening with a violent patient.

With this understanding of the various types of violence and their triggers, we can begin to further examine the issue and develop strategic initiatives to reduce the likelihood of an incident.

Stopping Healthcare Violence

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to ending violence in hospitals. It takes continuous diligence and work, but it’s necessary to remove workplace hazards and improve the well-being of providers. Healthcare leaders have a responsibility to make patient and worker safety a priority in the organization.

Risk factors can be both organizational and situational. Poorly lit parking lots, inadequate security personnel, operating in high-crime areas, and poor design are among the problems. Understaffing is also a major issue, as workers are pulled in many directions while patients are overcrowded.

Violence prevention programs in healthcare must include five key elements to succeed:

1. Full Organizational Support and Participation

Management needs to fully support workplace safety initiatives, and all staff should be involved. Duties and responsibilities should be clearly delegated to ensure critical support is always available when needed. Committees should be set up, if necessary, to ensure full organizational compliance.

Everyone–including security, receptionists, transcriptionists, technicians, janitors, cafeteria staff, and anyone else–needs to participate for the program to succeed.

2. Comprehensive Facility Safety Assessments

The best way to stop potential threats is to recognize them before they happen. Your team should be routinely performing a step-by-step hazard identification. This includes analyzing procedures, personnel, and any other possible safety vulnerabilities. Once potential hazards are identified, situations can be effectively prevented.

3. Proactive Damage Control

Your facility assessments are a blueprint to remedying potential vulnerabilities. When staff is fully trained, risk can be mitigated and minimized. For example, a buddy system ensures staff gets to their vehicles safely at night and proper staffing reduces the chances of patients becoming agitated.

Should a potentially hazardous situation occur, proactive security measures ensure staff reacts to contain the problem quickly and effectively.

4. Continuous Employee Training and Awareness

Organizations have the responsibility to make sure that every healthcare worker understands universal precautions for violence. Any time personnel are reassigned, safety training should be a top priority as a policy. When employees recognize the signs early, it’s easier to stop any problems before they occur.

5. Incident Documentation and Evaluation

Record-keeping is vital to the success of any workplace safety program. It’s tempting to gloss over incidents and cover them up. Even the government is aware that most incidents of workplace violence are never reported. Keeping a record of incidents and investigating them properly prevents them from repeating.

Improve Well-Being and Prevent Distress

Healthcare is one of the most dangerous career paths you can choose. According to the Department of Labor’s data, about half of all physical assaults occur in healthcare. Together, we can work to implement strategic interventions to improve the well-being of providers and eliminate distress in the workplace.

Our healthcare providers shouldn’t be distracted by violence or suffering from distress due to abuse. A physician who’s distracted has been proven to be less effective. Clinicians missing work due to being the victim of an assault cause understaffing and reassignments. These symptoms only raise the risk of another occurrence. Healthcare leaders can stop the cycle by making it a priority to improve the conditions for professionals and create non-violent hospitals.

Related Posts

Privacy Preferences
Web privacy policy
We take your privacy seriously, and we want you to know how we collect, use, share and protect your information.

What information we collect
We respect the right to privacy of all visitors to the Champions of Wellness site. We do not collect information that would personally identify you unless you choose to provide it. The personal information that you submit, such as on the request a quote page, is shared only with those people within the Champions of Wellness organization who need this information to respond to your request and we will utilize the information to improve Champions of Wellness operations. Information submitted through Champions of Wellness's online forms may be collected to ensure technical functionality. It will also be utilized to report any inappropriate use of our website. We do not save personal information to use for other purposes, nor do we provide it to any other groups.

Email communications, newsletter and related services
Champions of Wellness provides you with the opportunity to receive communications from us or third parties. You can sign up for a free email newsletter as well as unsubscribe from this at any time.

Email communications that you send to us via the contact and email links on our site may be shared with any member of our team and will be directed to the person most able to address your message. We make every effort to respond in a timely fashion once communications are received. Once we have responded to your communication, it is discarded or archived, depending on the nature of the message.

The email functionality on our site does not provide a completely secure and confidential means of communication. It's possible that your email communication may be accessed or viewed by another Internet user while in transit to us. If you wish to keep your communication private, do not use our email and call 888-426-7793.

You may decide at some point that you no longer wish to receive communications from our site. To stop receiving communications, send an email message to us.

We, from time to time, survey visitors to our site. The information is used in an aggregated, de-identified form to help us understand the needs of our visitors so that we can improve our visitor experience. The information may be shared with third parties with whom we have a business relationship. We generally do not ask for information in the surveys that would personally identify you. If we do request contact information for follow-up, you may decline to provide it. If survey respondents provide personal information, it is shared only with those people who need to see it to respond to the question or request, or with third parties who perform data management services for our site. Those third parties have agreed to keep all data from surveys confidential.

IP addresses
The Web server will automatically collect the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computers that access the Champions of Wellness site. An IP address is a number that is assigned to your computer when you access the Internet. It is not truly personally identifiable information because many different individuals can access the Internet via the same computer. We use this information in aggregate form to understand how our site or advertisements from Champions of Wellness are being used and how we can better serve visitors.

Cookies and other tracking technology
We collect information about visitors to our site using "cookies" and similar technology such as event tracking, pixel tags, visitor usage recordings and so on. We use this technology to recognize a repeat visitor and offer the visitor a set of content targeted based on a previous visit. We use session cookies to track a visitor's path through our site during a visit, to help us understand how people use our site and interact with us in order for us to continually improve our visitor experience.

How we use the information we collect

We use the information we collect for things like:
• Fulfilling requests for services or information
• Marketing and advertising products and services
• Conducting research and analysis
• Communicating things like special events and surveys
• Establishing and managing your account with us
• Identifying you on our websites and tailoring advertisements and offers to you (both on our websites and on other websites) based on your interactions with us in person and online
• Operating, evaluating and improving our business and website

Data retention
We will retain your information for as long as your account is active or as needed to provide you services, comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce our agreements.

Except for authorized law enforcement investigations or other valid legal processes, we will not share any personally identifiable information we receive from you with any parties outside of Champions of Wellness.

We may share some information to third parties
We may share your personally identifiable information with third parties who we have engaged to help us provide you services. In each case, we will ensure that these third parties have agreed not to use or disclose your personal information except to help us provide the services.

Except as noted above for newsletters and surveys, Champions of Wellness does not provide any third party access to your IP address and email address.

We may provide third parties with aggregate statistics about our visitors, traffic and related site information. This data reflects site-usage patterns gathered during visits to our website each month, but they do not contain behavioral or identifying information about any individual member unless that member has given us permission to share that information.

To help us determine the effectiveness of our advertising, we work with Web analytics tools hosted by third parties who receive non-identifiable information from your browser, including but not limited to the site or the advertisement you came from, your IP address, your general geographic location, your browser and platform information, and the pages you view within our site.

Ads by Google
Note that Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on our site. Google's use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to our site users based on their visit to our site and other sites on the Internet. No personally identifiable information is collected as part of Google's process. Users may opt out of the use of this DART cookie by visiting Google's privacy document.
If you would like more information about these practices and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, visit the Network Advertising Initiative. Some ad servers allow you to opt out of anonymous data collection through the use of cookies. To do so, you must opt out of such data collection with each individual site. You can opt out of cookies for several ad servers by visiting the Network Advertising Initiative gateway opt-out site. At that site you can also review the privacy policies of those ad servers.

Protecting your privacy
Whether you are visiting theChampions of Wellness site or working with one of our team members, we use reasonable security measures to protect the confidentiality of personal information under our control and appropriately limit access to it. Champions of Wellness cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to us, and you do so at your own risk. We have taken reasonable steps to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the personal information that you may provide. You should understand, however, that electronic transmissions via the Internet are not necessarily secure from interception, and so we cannot 100% guarantee the security or confidentiality of such transmissions.

If you reached this site via an ad from Champions of Wellness
If you come to a Champions of Wellness website via a Champions of Wellness advertisement, the ad may have been served to you based on your interests or selected for you based on your browsing activities.

Protecting children's privacy
We are committed to protecting children's privacy on the Internet, and we do not knowingly collect any personal information from children.

Links to other websites
Our websites link to client websites, many of which have their own privacy policies. Be sure to review the privacy policy on the site you're visiting.

Privacy policy updates
We may need to update our privacy policy as technology changes and Champions of Wellness evolves. If we make significant changes to this privacy policy, we'll update it here.

This policy was last updated in August 2021.