National headlines are too often filled with reports of workplace violence in health care settings. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has deemed it a recognized threat. No matter the cause for the increase in violent acts, Mercyhealth has adopted a firm commitment to addressing the risks at every level of its health care settings.
“The field of health care is more vulnerable to workplace violence than most other industries,” said Mike Van Vleet, Mercyhealth manager of security. “It is important to Mercyhealth to provide as many resources for a safe environment as possible.”
Health care settings are unique because patients and families are dealing with very stressful situations. They may be injured, seriously ill or very worried about a sick or injured loved one. The behaviors of some may escalate to yelling or physical actions that can create an unsafe environment. Health care workers need to be equipped to handle these unusual situations. With that in mind, it was determined by the summer of 2022 that one of those resources would be in-person active threat training. All employees had been completing annual online verbal de-escalation training, but the addition of in-person active threat training would take things one step further and individualize it for each department and unit.
Between June and August of 2022, Van Vleet and his staff, with the assistance of the emergency management staff, traveled to more than 60 Mercyhealth locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. They met with nearly 2,000 employees, spending approximately 30 minutes each visit discussing what to do during an active threat, in this case a shooter.
Using the Run, Hide, Fight model, the trainers had employees think of places in their own work areas that would be the safest places to hide, be aware of all exits and develop a plan specific to their unit. The training team went floor by floor in each facility. Employees shared their appreciation for making the information much more applicable to their individual work environment.
Van Vleet said the in-person training will continue to be available to employees at the request of department managers. Additional workplace violence prevention training, such as therapeutic self-defense and physical restraints, are required for employees working in positions that present higher risks to violence.