Safety in nursing: 5 tips to ensure zero-tolerance for workplace violence

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The nursing profession is an ancient and noble one. While doctors might be too busy to give extra attention to each patient, an excellent team of nurses can serve them well. Unfortunately, this is also a profession that is vulnerable to violence in more ways than one. 

Hospitals and clinics might be places of healing for some, but they also see their shares of deaths and mishaps. Nurses are usually seen as being solely responsible for the condition of a patient. Therefore, they might suffer from many backlashes. Besides, one in four nurses is taken for granted or abused in their respective workplaces, according to a study revealed by the American Nurses Association (ANA).  

ANA has now taken several steps to protect the nursing profession from bullying, physical violence, and other harmful actions. The organization has set a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy for nurses. However, you need to play an equal role to ensure that there is zero-tolerance among nurses regarding workplace violence.

Here are some tips for dealing with such issues:

1. Break the tradition

There are specific settings where violence in the medical organization is almost accepted. Just because something is common, it does not mean that it should become part of the daily grind for any employee. Moving to a zero-tolerance culture against violence will also prevent its normalization. 

This can be possible when nurses and other healthcare providers are informed about their rights to a safe work environment. The employers should also be vigilant on this, with no compromises allowed. Desensitization to violence is possible. Therefore, it is essential to avoid a culture that enables these behaviors.

2. Understand warning signs

Reporting a violent incident after it has occurred is a good step. But the mental and physical damage is already done. Therefore, it is best to train staff and managers in terms of how to recognize the warning signs of violence as well as its triggers. For instance, an emotional reaction might be the result of some mental disorder or the effect of alcohol. 

The trigger might also be slight in many cases, such as a change of food or waking a violent patient from his/her nap. These situations need a solution before things get out of hand. 

3. Understand the frequency

When we know where and how the violence bursts forth, we can better understand how to deal with it and even prevent the occurrence. For instance, violence against nurses is quite common in emergency areas, geriatric units, waiting rooms, and psychiatric wards. There are also patients there who might be under the influence of illegal drugs and hard drinks. Add the factors of understaffing, shoddy environmental designs, and long waits—the combination can be lethal when it comes to the busy nurses. 

With this understanding, hospital management can best decide where to concentrate their security efforts. This way, the staff on hand will be able to get on with their jobs without compromising their safety. 

4. Conduct training for prevention

It is also essential to understand here that violence against nurses is increasing in frequency. This is more reason why nurses need to have some training in how to mitigate violence and shun it from their workplace. 

Unfortunately, most medical institutes only issue funds for security training and safety measures as a reactive effort. This means that they release such investments only after a violent incident takes place or their insurance company demands it. 

Instead of waiting around for something serious to happen, nurses, today can try asking and even insisting on training in violence prevention. This is not a standard part of the training they receive, so there might be some red tape involved.

This training can help nurses in putting out small fires that might otherwise do a lot of damage. For example, novice nurses need to understand about working on their questioning style, posture, level of eye contact, and several other factors that might promote agitation.

In addition to knowing how and when to report violence, it is also necessary to learn about personal boundaries and space for each patient.  

5. Enhance the design and systems

Healthcare facilities that want to implement a zero-tolerance culture against violence are now also looking at how to change up their working on a large scale. The new hospital construction might have a design that is more conducive to heightening security without locking everyone down. They are also reconfiguring emergency rooms for several care levels. This will help the nurses have more control over the placement of their patients. 

The staffing levels are also potential triggers for violence. Therefore, a healthcare facility needs to get the right number of workers for their load. Finally, nurses should consider searching for a new employer who would apply such measures if their current one simply ignores them. 

When they come into work every day, nurses are looking forward to caring for their patients and exercising their skills. If they are prevented through all types of bullying, intimidation, or outright harm, our community might lose a high level of care. A zero-tolerance policy for any violence is highly essential, especially for nurses. Proper reporting and intervention need to take place, starting with the ones described above.