From 2002 to 2013, incidents of serious workplace violence were four times more common in healthcare than in private industry on average. The scant studies on violence in the industry suggests that hospital staff see it as “part of the job” and much of it goes unreported.
Grand Strand Health took a corporate directive as an opportunity to create policies as well as a culture of zero tolerance towards workplace violence by increasing awareness, reporting and support.
Beginning from the principle of “zero tolerance,” Grand Strand has worked diligently at creating a culture that takes a hard line towards dealing with workplace violence. The CDC defines workplace violence as “the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty.” Grand Strand applied this understanding throughout its safety and security program.
“It’s a requirement that our staff, from the newest person through the door to the CEO, understands that it’s their responsibility to report any kind of workplace violence, suspicious activity, anything like that, to security,” explains Matthew Tumbleson, Emergency Operations Manager at the hospital. “We are empowering all of our employees to look for threats in the facility and report to security.”
Part of the teaching process involves an emphasis on reporting. Grand Strand differentiates between urgent matters, where employees should dial an emergency line that goes right to the communications center of the hospital, and non-emergent issues which can be reported by contacting a security officer directly or using a new company-wide smartphone app that has a reporting mechanism for any safety or security issue.
Grand Strand also doesn’t stop at the new employee orientation—it also has annual education days where their workplace violence policies and reporting mechanisms are reviewed. “We also do periodic drills with all of the staff on all of the units,” says Tumbleson.
“If we walked out the door of the hospital, we wouldn’t allow somebody in public to treat another person that way, and it shouldn’t be any different [here].”
Part of their zero-tolerance policy also means a willingness to prosecute perpetrators of workplace violence or take other appropriate disciplinary action, something which firmly maintains the kind of violence-free culture their policy fosters.
“People need to know we won’t tolerate any kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward our staff, patients and visitors,” Tumbleson insists.
In addition to their emphasis on more common incidents of workplace violence, Grand Strand also takes the threat of an active shooter seriously as well. It is part of the conversation in trainings.
“Nobody wants to talk about this, but we engage our staff because we have to talk about it,” Tumbleson contends. “We plan for every situation as it may happen based on worst case scenario.”