Nebraska Hospital Association sheds light on violence in healthcare facilities


LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – In response to recent hospital shootings in Oklahoma and Ohio, the Nebraska Hospital Association is taking additional steps to keep staff members and patients safe. Nebraska health officials shared their concerns about workplace violence in hospitals at a press conference on Friday.

A statement was released by NHA President Jeremy Nordquist expressing his condolences for the victims.

“At the end of the day, we’ve seen enough carnage in our hospitals and clinics, whether treating countless gunshot victims or caring for fellow victims of workplace violence,” said Jeremy Nordquist, president of the NHA. “Enough is enough. The time has come for a meaningful change.

Hospital officials on the panel linked the COVID-19 pandemic to increased patient aggression. Some of the circumstances mentioned included the rejection of visitation rules, vaccinations and mask policies.

“Now people walk through the front door and they’re angry,” said Lisa Vail, vice president of patient care services and chief system nurse at Bryan Health. “We actually had our front desk volunteers physically assaulted when trying to encourage individuals to put on an appropriate mask or when we were limiting visitors – very strong reactions to that sort of thing.”

Nordquist said 44% of nurses experienced physical abuse during the pandemic and 68% experienced verbal abuse.

At Bryan Health, nearly 60% of Occupational Safety and Health Administration incidents in 2021 were related to violence against a healthcare worker.

In addition to incidents related to COVID-19, these attacks included name-calling, excessive profanity, threatening comments or actions, kicking, spitting, biting, and sexual harassment. These actions can lead to post-traumatic stress for healthcare workers or cause them to leave the profession altogether.

According to the International Association for Safety and Security in Health Care, health care workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than those in other professions.

To create a safe environment for the public and employees, Nebraska hospitals are implementing safety measures and providing resources and training to employees.

“It’s really about building a culture of safety and then empowering employees,” said Jeff Farmer, public safety system manager for Methodist Health System in the Omaha area. “From a security perspective, what I like to try to do is just have my officers just be another tool in the tool belt of our clinical staff and other employees as well when it comes to of these cases.”

While physical and verbal abuse can affect all parties, Farmer said 95% of assaults within Methodist Health involve a patient directing negative actions towards a staff member.

To address violence in healthcare facilities, Nebraska hospitals focus on policies, support systems, internal resources, behavioral health, chaplaincy services and employee assistance programs. Farmer also stressed the need to educate and train workers in crisis prevention.

At Great Plains Health in North Platte, emergency room workers use devices called “code gray buttons” for inpatient units, according to Alex Wilkerson, clinical director of the emergency room. When the button is pressed, security is notified of any disturbance. The Great Plains ER also has bulletproof facilities, 24/7 surveillance and motion-activated cameras.

Nicole Thorell, chief nursing officer at Lexington Regional Health Center, said violence against healthcare workers is not just an urban problem. The violence occurs in hospitals across the state and involves employees who are not nurses, such as workers who register patients and distribute hospital bills.

“We understand that you’re stressed and tired, and we want to be here to help you,” Thorell said. “Instead of being mad at a bill or mad at having to wear a mask or take out your stressors that really have nothing to do with us, we ask you to practice grace, to share with us your situation, let us know what is causing you this stress, and allow us the opportunity to help and care for you as we have and always will.

Copyright 2022 KOLN. All rights reserved.


Comments are closed.