3 ways communication technology can help prevent workplace violence in healthcare

Note: This is the third post in our series on workplace violence in hospitals. Read the first two:  Workplace violence in healthcare: What does the data say? and How to decrease workplace violence in healthcare: 10 resources to explore

Workplace violence in healthcare isn’t an easy or simple challenge to address. As a leader in healthcare communications, we’d like to offer specific ways communication technology can help protect your healthcare staff.

First, it’s helpful to understand OSHA’s five building blocks for developing a violence prevention program in healthcare. Since they are the authority on occupational safety, this is good place to start.

OSHA’s five building blocks for developing a workplace violence protection program

  1. Management commitment and worker participation
  2. Worksite analysis and hazard identification
  3. Hazard prevention and control
  4. Safety and health training
  5. Recordkeeping and program evaluation

Communication technology can help address hazard prevention and control, which includes engineering controls and administrative controls. Let’s dive into both of these a bit more. 

Engineering controls

Engineering controls are physical interventions that create a barrier between healthcare staff and situations with a potential for violence. Locks, metal detectors, accessible exit routes, and panic buttons are all examples of engineering controls to help protect healthcare staff.

It can be difficult to implement some physical barriers in areas like the emergency room and waiting rooms. Without these barriers, there’s a greater risk for violence. This brings us to the first way communication technology can protect staff from workplace violence.

1. Provide staff with mobile devices equipped for duress communications

This may be key to help protect staff, especially in environments where physical barriers aren’t possible. Many healthcare-grade, purpose-built devices (like a Spectralink smartphone) include a duress or panic button. Combined with middleware software (like Spok clinical alerting) a designated team like a charge nurse and hospital security can be alerted with the exact location of the staff member in need when the button is pushed. For example: