BRISTOL - Local, state and national hospital representatives gathered with other leaders at Bristol Hospital Friday for “National Hospitals Against Violence Day” to speak out against assault on hospital staff all over the country, and showcase efforts that have been made to prevent it.
A panel addressing the issue consisted of Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital, Michelle Miranda, director of inpatient services at Bristol Hospital, Jennifer Foss, director of nursing operations at Bristol Hospital, Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould, Carl Schiessl, director of regulatory advocacy with the Connecticut Hospital Association, Ellen A. Crowe, director of clinical excellence and care redesign with the Connecticut Hospital Association, Jack Barry, regional executive with the American Hospital Association.
Local legislators Chris Ziogas, Whit Betts and William Petit were also in attendance.
Barwis began by explaining how a year and a half ago he had gone to the emergency room to respond to a violent situation. He described how the perpetrator had been under the influence of a substance was combative and recalled how frightening the situation was.
“I don’t feel that healthcare workers should be put into these kinds of situations,” Barwis said. “Unfortunately, incidents of violence are often under-reported. There are some who feel like it should be expected in this sort of field.”
Gould agreed that although healthcare professionals as well as police are trained to be prepared for violent situations, it is a risk and a hazard that should not be seen as an expectation. “That sort of violence should have no place in a civilized society,” said Gould.
Wyman, who had previously worked as an X-ray technician in Brooklyn, New York, recalled how she had seen patients come in who had shot each other in acts of gang violence. The families of both sides of the incidents had tried to fight hospital staff as they tried to separate them. “That is the sort of violence that stays in your mind forever,” Wyman said. “Every day you come into work thinking about how it could happen again.”
Miranda said that 75 percent of workplace assaults are committed against health care and social service professionals.
“These are people who are dedicated to taking care of your families and your loved ones and they are coming to work afraid,” she said.
Miranda explained that Bristol Hospital has made changes that included restricting visiting hours, paying staff who had been victimized to go to court to see offenders prosecuted, providing support groups and providing de-escalation training to staff.
Foss added that a security guard has also been hired for the emergency room, which is the area of highest risk. Staff are also given a panic button that they can wear. “Sometimes with violent patients just having someone in a uniform come in is a useful deterrent,” she said.
Since implementing the changes, Barwis said, Bristol Hospital had seen a 50 percent reduction in workplace violence. He said that the collaboration with the police department has been critical.
Gould noted that in Bristol, police arrive on a scene to keep emergency medical services safe. He also said state law has been changed so it is a felony to assault healthcare professionals just as with other public safety enforcement.
Gould was surprised with a Hospital Champion Award for his efforts to assist the hospital. “It is an honor and a privilege to receive this award,” he said. “You didn’t need to do this; we’re here for you.”
Schiessl further reinforced the idea that incidents of violence against healthcare professionals are under reported. He said that this is a national issue and commended Bristol Hospital for its efforts to combat it.
Crowe, who has 33 years of experience as a nurse, said the issue of violence against hospital staff is one she takes close to heart. She said that it can be traumatic not only for those who experience it, but for those who witness it too.
“Healthcare is a stressful enough environment without these issues and we don’t want to lose valuable team members,” she said.
Barry said “it is not ok” for hospital staff to face violence. He said that many states are facing an aging population and that more young people are needed in healthcare fields. He said that hospital leaders are working to establish best practices to prevent violence and keep them safe.
“Violence against hospital staff accounts for $2.7 billion in non-reimbursed costs while we are trying to provide healthcare to Americans in an affordable way,” he noted.
During a question and answer segment following the program, Petit asked if hospital representatives wanted more state and federal funding to prevent violence. Barry said that they were not asking for more funds but were committed to bringing down the costs with better internal solutions. Petit also said that he felt that these acts of violence were caused by social issues such as problems with family structure.
Betts congratulated Bristol Hospital for its efforts and asked hospital leaders to present an annual informational update at the capitol on this issue. He told them to tell legislators what they could do to help.
Later, Barwis and Barry responded to a question about increasing rates of violence against hospital staff by confirming that the number of incidents had gone up not only in Bristol but nationwide.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.