A new alert just published by the Joint Commission reports that the rate of hospital violence is on the rise. I think this is a frightening thought, considering that most people think of hospitals as a place to heal and to cure illness.
What is even more disturbing about this trend is that these crimes are extremely violent. They are more serious than harassment or theft, which already seem unlikely in a hospital. These unimaginable crimes include assault, rape, and murder, and are committed by staff, visitors, and intruders. The Joint Commission maintains an event database to record reported violent incidents. There were 36 in 2007, 41 in 2008, and 33 in 2009.
This increase in hospital violence made me think about how and why it is allowed to happen. Why in hospitals of all places? Well, one reason is simply because hospitals are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can imagine that it becomes increasingly difficult to enforce security measures when your building is always open to the public.
In addition to that, other causes include an overall lack of security policies and development, lack in number of staff, and a need for better communication and training.
It is clear that more attention needs to be paid to this issue by placing more responsibility on staff and increasing security and violence management training. According to the alert, each hospital should conduct a risk assessment and identify its own issues and how to solve them. Staff needs to be aware, ask questions, and report suspicious activity immediately. Hospitals need to have a zero tolerance policy towards any type of violence.
The Joint Commission also recommends that hospitals create and maintain a written plan to provide for security of patients, staff, and visitors alike.
If you would like more information on this report on hospital violence, read The Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert [PDF].
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