Growing rates of health care workers are experiencing physical and psychological injury as a result of workplace violence. A staggering 95% of health care workers have reported exposure to aggression. However, research has found that workplace violence is underreported, signifying that actual rates may be much higher and cause for concern.
In order to decrease violent and sometimes combative outbursts from patients that can lead to injury, health care workers must understand the underlying triggers that precede the aggressive behavior. There are three main types of triggers:
- Physical triggers include a patient’s physical inability to accurately describe or verbalize needs and wants including pain, hunger, thirst, need for use of bathroom, or positioning needs. The health care worker may also provide the trigger through body language, touch, tone of voice, type of clothing/perfume worn, or mannerisms.
- Emotional triggers may include a patient feeling depressed, overstimulated, or experiencing sensory changes.
- Environmental triggers can include noxious stimuli from the environment surrounding the patient including noise from a television, other patients, busy nurses’ stations, or maintenance work nearby. Secondly, excessive clutter, large unfamiliar equipment, close proximity to objects or people can all trigger violent outbursts.
Being aware of the triggers that can precede a violent outburst and knowing how to avoid these triggers can be instrumental in preventing injury to health care workers. Collaborating with the entire health care team and providing a specific patient-centered approach can decrease outbursts and keep health care workers, as well as the patients they care for, safe.
LMC Insurance & Risk Management has developed a resource to help health care providers understand the triggers and different interventions that can be utilized. For a copy of this resource, please contact our team
Reference: Brown, B. & Kain, E. (2019). A Role for Occupational Therapy Practitioners in Mitigating Episodes of Workplace Violence in Health Care. American Occupational Therapy Association SIS Quarterly Practice Connections. 4, 31-33.
Elizabeth Kain MOT, OTR/L is a Loss Control Consultant & Ergonomic Specialist with LMC Insurance & Risk Management. She is licensed with the Iowa Board of Occupational Therapy and is certified through the National Board of Certified Occupational Therapists. Elizabeth is member of the Iowa Occupational Therapy Association, as well as a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association.
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Upcoming Webinar: The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers’ Compensation
August 27 | 10-11 a.m.
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This worldwide pandemic has affected each of us in many ways. Your employees may have concerns about exposure-related illness and absence from work. We will talk about the impact of COVID-19 on workers’ compensation, including what hospitals can do to support employees during this uncertain time.