Workplace Violence Prevention

On June 14, 2018, Governor Walker signed into law House Bill (HB) 312 a crime bill which included provisions to address increasing levels of violence in health care facilities.

This legislation helps facilities keep the environment safe and remove violent people. It adds a felony aggravator when the assault occurs at a health care facility is and directed at a caregiver, possibly resulting in longer jail time.  The law goes into effect on September 12, 2018.

A toolkit with resources to support hospital leaders to communicate changes in the law to staff, work with law enforcement, and develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans was developed by ASHNHA in 2018.

“We applaud the Alaska State Senate today for passing HB 312, the omnibus crime bill. Among other things, the bill addresses violence against health care workers. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of bill sponsors Rep. Matt Claman and Rep. Chuck Kopp in introducing and advancing this important legislation. Alaska hospitals have reported recent increases in workplace violence, including assaults with a physical injury against caregivers. Staff report feeling unsafe in the workplace. All too often, they are kicked, punched, spit on or verbally threatened. Violence should not be an acceptable workplace hazard. Unfortunately, for many nurses, physicians, and other caregivers, this has become the new normal.  The passage of HB 312 sends a clear message to our health care providers that they are supported and valued. On behalf of the many health care workers serving Alaskans in hospitals and nursing homes, we thank the Senate for passing this important legislation and Rep. Claman and Rep. Kopp for their leadership.”
Becky Hultberg
Former President/CEO of  Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association

Alaska’s hospitals have seen asignificant increase in workplace violence in the last year, generally patient on caregiver or family member on caregiver violence. ASHNHA worked hard to identify the best method of collecting data to quantify this uptick in violence. Anecdotally, we know that violence has escalated dramatically. ASHNHA had formed a Workplace Violence Task Force to help define the problem and develop solutions, the Task Force has since been absorbed back into our Patient Saftey Committee to continue exploring education, processes, and policies that will assist hospitals in navigating how to prevent violence and what to do when violence has occurred.

Progress has been made in regard to data collection and creating a narrative to explain the magnitude of the impacts that violence is having on Alaska’s hospitals. SB 54 has been signed in to law and is anticipated to alleviate some of the inconsistencies in the criminal justice system that were likely contributing to escalated workplace violence issues. The Legislature is also examining other aspects of reform, such as recidivism reduction efforts, to assess how those efforts are impacting Alaskans. The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission released their 2017 Annual Report (see Resources below) in regard to Alaska’s criminal justice system reform efforts.

On Dec. 7 ASHNHA presented to the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission in regard to workplace violence issues in Alaska’s hospitals. The Commission is tasked with evaluating and recommending criminal justice system changes to improve criminal laws and practices. ASHNHA presented our Workplace Violence Initiative which includes recommended legislative strategies and hospital strategies on evidence-based practices in pursuit of implementing a multifaceted approach to combating workplace violence. The testimony was moving and made great strides in advancing our efforts.

We are also working to address the issue by offering a toolkit on best practice to prevent workplace violence, providing hospitals with individualized assessments to help improve workplace safety and sharing best practices. The goal is for all facilities to implement best practices to reduce aggressive behavior and risk to hospital staff. There isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy that can be implemented but there are many existing policies that can be used as a roadmap for Alaska’s hospitals. Zero-tolerance policies have shown to have an impact on de-escalating violence and can be as simple as a mission-statement with posted signage that violence will not be tolerated. Each facility will want to craft a policy that addresses its unique qualities or to examine existing policies to ensure they adequately address workplace violence issues. At the same time, we will focus on problems in the criminal justice/law enforcement systems that are contributing to the increase in workplace violence.

Any ASHNHA member who would like to participate is welcome to join. If you would like to be part of the Patient Safety Committee contact Lynn Van Vactor.

Oregon Toolkit link

This comprehensive toolkit, authored by Lynda Enos, RN, BSN, MS, COHN-S, CPE, will assist health care leadership and violence prevention committees and other stakeholders to:

  • Evaluate the workplace violence program and individual violence prevention practices at their facility or within their organization, against current best practices in violence prevention.
  • Identify and engage stakeholders and enhance the culture of worker and patient safety.
  • Develop or strengthen their workplace violence program and policy by identifying process that can be implemented to manage or control violence and can address the risk of violence proactively.