Study works to reduce health care violence

From MSU Today

Violence toward health care workers is an occupational hazard of epidemic proportion, but a new study by a Michigan State University College of Human Medicine researcher found it can be reduced with a structured program.

Violence against health care workers "is much more common than what the ordinary person would think," said Judith Arnetz, a professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Family Medicine. "What we see in our studies is that violence (in medical facilities) is grossly underreported."

Arnetz has been researching violence in hospitals and other medical facilities since the 1990s. Her latest study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found the level of violence can be curtailed if workers develop action plans based on data specific to their units.

Arnetz and her colleagues randomly assigned 41 units in the Detroit Medical Center to an intervention group, that received three years of violence data specific to their units and a control group, that received no data.

The units were able to take such steps as changing policies, training staff and installing panic buttons and better lighting to reduce violence.

After six months, the rate of violent events in the units that had received data was about half the rate of the units that had not. After two years, the rate of violence-related injuries was about 60 percent lower in the intervention group than in the control group.

But that did not mean the number of violent incidents had decreased in those units that had developed action plans, only that it had not increased at the same rate as in the other units.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, health care facilities can be dangerous places. The organization has reported that in 2013, the rate of violent attacks against health care workers was 16.2 cases per 10,000 full-time employees, nearly four times the rate of other private sector workers.

Patients in emergency rooms and psychiatric units are particularly prone to violence, Arnetz said. It is imperative that hospitals take steps to reduce the violence, she said.

Published: Mon, Feb 06, 2017


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