NIOSH Blog Highlights Violence in Health Care Settings

Health care workers reported an estimated 9,200 workplace violence incidents requiring time away from work to recover during 2013, with the majority of these perpetrated by patients or their family members, wrote Dan Hartley, EdD, NIOSH workplace violence prevention coordinator.

The NIOSH blog turned its attention late last week to workplace violence in health care. While it might be an active shooter or an angry colleague, the most commonly reported form of violence in health care is from a disruptive patient or a patient's family member, wrote Dan Hartley, EdD, who is the NIOSH workplace violence prevention coordinator in the Division of Safety Research.

During 2013, health care workers reported an estimated 9,200 workplace violence incidents requiring time away from work to recover, with most of the perpetrators being patients or their family members. "This represents 67% of all nonfatal violence-related injuries from an industry that only represents 11.5% of all workers," Hartley explained.

"In terms of fatal workplace violence, overall we have seen a decreasing trend over the past ten years while the numbers of homicides in health care have remained relatively stable. In each of the past ten years, fifteen health care workers have been the victims of workplace homicide annually," he continued, citing a 2013 report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that indicated an increasing trend in workplace active shooter incidents, from an average of 6.4 incidents per year for the first seven years of the study to an average of 16.4 per year in the final seven years of the study.

He noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an "Incorporating Active Shooter Incident Planning into Health Care Facility Emergency Operations Plans" document in December 2014 to help health care facilities become better prepared to prevent and respond to active shooters, and that NIOSH in 2013 released online workplace violence prevention training for nurses and other health professionals. More than 10,000 health professionals have received continuing education units for completing the NIOSH online course, he wrote.

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