Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare


April 21, 2019
A stethoscope and a mask laying flat.

When it comes to preventing workplace violence in healthcare, what works – and what doesn’t?

To answer this question, I’ll share a conversation with you that I had at a recent tradeshow. First I presented at the show’s healthcare conference, and later I chatted with pros at our booth about how our Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program works.

One tradeshow booth visitor said to me, “You know, I think you need to take your program up a notch.”

Oh boy, I thought.

And yet, I'm intrigued by comments like this.

Often someone will say to me, “You know, you guys should add...” or “You know, you guys should teach...”

…and they usually suggest something we already offer. Or sometimes they suggest something unrelated to what we do or something we’re not experts in. Those are easy comments and questions to address.

And we really want to know what’s working well for organizations and what, if any, perceived (or actual) gaps exist with our Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program and organizations’ ongoing training processes. We take our customers’ feedback very seriously and conduct surveys regularly. And so...

“I think you should take the program up a notch,” someone said.

“How so?” I asked.

“Add guns.”

“Huh,” I thought to myself.

And I asked — with the utmost sincerity — “Are you being serious or facetious?”

“I’m serious,” the man said.

Now, I’m not here to begin a gun debate or anything like that. But seriously — adding guns to our workplace violence prevention program would not be reasonable given that we teach a program called Nonviolent Crisis Intervention®

So I quickly made the assumption that he might have been wishing to discuss the current industry debate of whether security officers (especially in the ED) should be armed or not, have Tasers or not, or use pepper spray or not, as part of their continuum of interventions. I personally have great concerns about arming security in healthcare, but I can see both sides of that discussion, and the merits of having that discussion.

Sadly, that’s not what this man meant. He was talking about employees having guns.

While he’s entitled to his opinion, I have to say that the reason I love our training program is that it aligns with my passion for safety and respect and preventing violence and harm. I think I can safely speak for all of us at CPI when I say that guns have no place in a training program that’s aimed at preventing violence.

Preventing violence in hospitals: the critical need for training

At the same time as I heard a comment or two like “add guns,” I heard from others that they recognize how important it is to train staff in methods for preventing violence in hospitals. I heard stories about how much staff in healthcare settings need training — and I saw the need for training in the fading signs of a serious hematoma from a bite.

When staff are equipped with training in de-escalation strategies, debriefing protocols, and personal safety techniques – as Joint Commission, CMS, and more and more laws and regulations require – they're better equipped to recognize the early warning signs of a potential crisis that could result in assaultive behavior.

They’re better equipped to use verbal and paraverbal de-escalation strategies to prevent situations from spinning out of control, and they're better equipped to safely block and move away from strikes and grabs.

They’re better equipped to prevent violence in health care – nonviolently, without guns, while putting the CARE in healthcare. While keeping themselves, each other, AND patients and visitors safe.

No question: It’s a delicate balance when it comes to providing outstanding patient care, meeting regulatory requirements, and providing for patient and staff safety — all in a fast-paced and continuously changing environment.

It is not easy.

Yet it can be done.

And it’s done every day.

Throughout my years at CPI – and before I got here, when I worked in direct care and was supported as a staff member by receiving Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training – I’ve seen and heard of some wonderful ways to make it all work.

CPI’s offerings can be a big part of that transformation. I’m here to show you how to get there. And here’s the whole truth:

Mostly the change will come from you.

Not only from you, but from everyone you work with – from the top down and back up – because everyone comes into contact with people who could escalate. Everyone deserves support from all levels. Everyone can be part of a crisis prevention and response team. Everyone should be empowered to work at preventing workplace violence in your healthcare setting.

And no one needs to live with hospital violence as “part of their job.”

In my current role here at CPI, where I support organizations in implementing the full array of necessary Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® skills, I say again and again:

Workplace violence is a recognized and prevalent risk in health care. It’s imperative that we do all we can to safely prevent and mitigate the risks associated with all types of workplace violence.

And when I talk to staff and facilities who don’t yet have a workable plan in place for mitigating violence in health care, I hear about OSHA inspections in response to worker injuries. And that's when I ask a vitally important question: Are you doing everything to maintain a safe workplace?

At CPI, everything we do is about helping you prevent workplace violence. If your hospital does not already have a comprehensive approach to this issue, we’d love to support you in your crucial mission to make your facility safer.

Start preventing workplace violence in your healthcare setting now with these resources:


1. Free On-Demand Webinar

If you need strategies for preventing workplace violence in health care, be sure to check out the webinar above. It’s packed with guidance to help clinical staff, security, leadership, and everyone make nonviolence a workable reality. Find out:

  • About policy development [12:50]
  • What you CAN control during a crisis [15:20]
  • What causes people to escalate [16:08]
  • Which staff need which de-escalation tools [27:00]
  • 5 strategies to prevent and stop verbal assaults [27:42]
  • CPI's 5-step approach to setting limits [33:00]
  • How to manage your emotions in a high-stress situation [38:00]
  • Training as a risk-reduction tool [43:08]

2. Joint Commission Standards on Restraint and Seclusion

See exactly how Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training helps facilities align with Joint Commission standards [PDF].

3. The Joint Commission Recommends Our De-Escalation Tips

Get our top tips in this free resource on defusing difficult situations.

4. OSHA’s guidelines for preventing workplace violence

Does your healthcare setting meet these OSHA standards? Implement CPI and it will.

5. Prevention First

Need the key to an effective workplace violence prevention program? Equipping everyone from receptionists and nurses to the director of security with prevention and de-escalation skills is it.

6. Results With CPI: Data & Case Studies

If you’re wondering if CPI training really works at preventing workplace violence in healthcare, take a look at what organizations like yours have accomplished.

Ready to excel at workplace violence prevention?

Then it’s time for CPI training. Search for a public program in your area, or call 888.426.2184 and we’ll come to you.

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