3 Steps to Increase Your Awareness of Workplace Violence

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by Detective Ashley Thompson
It seems that every day you hear about a mass shooting, workplace violence, or other type of mass violence in our country. More and more of these types of incidents are occurring in the healthcare setting too. From an elderly man who broke off part of his bed and used it to attack nurses in a hospital in Minnesota to two heavily armed terrorists killing 14 people and wounding several others at a facility in San Bernardino California that provides services to people with developmental disabilities, healthcare personnel need to be ever vigilant of this type of activity but more so, prepared for the possibility of it happening to them. What you hear less about, but is far more prevalent is nurse who is assaulted by a patient in the Emergency Room or by a coworker in the break room.

A few years ago, I took some basic concepts of crime prevention, adapted to healthcare and packaged it in a program I call S.T.A.I.R.s which stands for Situation, Territory, Awareness, Instincts and Routine. The program also includes an active shooter element designed to not make you paranoid or fearful, but to educate and prepare you for the remote possibility of this type of violence.  More so, the program concentrates on your everyday interactions with patients, family, visitors and coworkers where you are more likely to encounter violence and aggressive behavior.
One of the most important of the S.T.A.I.R.s concepts is that of awareness. There is so much I can talk about with respect to awareness, but I’ll just concentrate on a few of the most important ones. The beauty of all the concepts is that they can be applied to not only your professional environment but your personal life as well.
The concept of awareness encompasses both awareness of your surroundings as well as self-awareness, in other words, what would you be willing to do to protect yourself, your family or your patients. The following are just a few of the many examples of how to become more aware:
1.     Recognize that although violence can occur anywhere at any time, certain areas have higher potential such as in the Emergency room where stress and emotions combined with long waiting times cause people to lash out, in many cases at those trying to help them.
2.    Pay attention to personal space and body language, both yours and your patients or 
coworkers. Everyone reacts different to someone invading their personal space (usually the area around you about an arm’s length away). Be respectful and mindful of this space and be prepared to back up if someone gets too close.
3.     Evaluate every situation for potential violence, especially when entering a patient’s room for the first time. Make a habit of including any unusual or concerning behaviors of your patients when giving report and hopefully you will get the same type of report when starting your shift. Pay attention not only to the patient but to any visitors in the room.
Becoming more aware and protecting yourself from violence, aggressive behavior and even bullying is an individual and organizational responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. By engaging in crime prevention, reading safety literature and attending classes or seminars, you will not only increase your chances of NOT becoming a victim, but make your workplace a safer place for you, your colleagues, and your patients.
Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected.
About the author: Detective Ashley Thompson has been a Law Enforcement Officer for more than 30 years with a concentration on intelligence and crime prevention. He is a Certified Crime Prevention Specialist, a Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst, and a Certified Gang Professional. Ashley has taught numerous training sessions to community groups, including healthcare professionals in areas such as personal safety, safety in the workplace, violence prevention and recognizing and dealing with aggression in the healthcare setting. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s degree in Homeland Security from California University of Pennsylvania. Ashley is a retired U.S. Army Military Police Officer with 22 years of service.
To find out how you can bring Detective Thompson’s S.T.A.I.R.s program to your organization, contact him by clicking here.

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