Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against health care workers has increased nationwide. To help combat this, in 2022, Children’s Wisconsin introduced a workplace violence prevention and response program. Known as SAFER (Staff And Family Expectations and Responsibilities for safety), this program emphasizes and supports the health system’s commitment to provide a safe and healing environment for their teams, visitors and the families and kids they care for.
SAFER clearly states that verbal abuse and physical violence will not be tolerated. The culture and commitment to Inclusion, diversity and equity directs everyone at Children’s Wisconsin to assume positive intent and come from a place of understanding. The SAFER program is founded in these commitments and builds on experience and culture efforts Children’s Wisconsin has invested in over the past 15 years.
As a top pediatric health care system, with more than 4.4 million touch points with kids and families each year, Children’s Wisconsin has tools and programs in place to encourage de-escalation and trauma-informed care. SAFER builds on these resources and reframes these tools into a progression of actions designed to prevent or respond to unwelcome behavior.
The SAFER program works in partnership with leaders across the organization to develop and recommend tactics aimed at improving partnership, minimizing conflict, and elevating the experience for staff, families and visitors. SAFER strives to maintain a safe, healing environment. SAFER clearly states expectations and responsibilities that are communicated to families and visitors through various channels, including posters in Children’s Wisconsin facilities. A corresponding set of expectations and responsibilities are defined for Children’s staff and providers. These expectations remind teams to give themselves time to pause and reset before interactions with families and colleagues. Everyone has a role in creating safe and healing environments.
Potential threats of workplace violence are being increasingly recognized across Wisconsin and the nation. The health care and social service industries have the greatest rates of workplace violence injuries, with workers in these industries five times more likely to be injured at work than others. During a recent evaluation by The Joint Commission, Children’s was recognized for having an advanced and proactive approach to preventing workplace violence through this program. One of the best protections health care employers can offer their teams is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. Children’s Wisconsin is proud of the work it has started with SAFER to demonstrate that the safety of everyone at Children’s—staff, providers, kids and families—is essential to create a safe and healing environment for the kids it serves, and to provide a safe and rewarding environment for the team members who provide the care.