Sentara Healthcare emphasizes new workplace safety and violence prevention measures
Sentara Healthcare marked National Nurses Week (May 6-12) and National Hospital Week (May 8-14) with an employee recognition event themed after one of the not-for-profit health system’s core commitments - Always Keep You Safe. Noontime gatherings at its multiple locations across Virginia and North Carolina began with a 72-second “#StandWithSentara” moment of silence to recognize that 72 percent of all workplace violence is committed against health care workers, according to recent data from the National Institutes of Health.
Remarks from Sentara executives focused on employee appreciation and new and enhanced workplace safety and violence prevention initiatives to keep colleagues, health plan members, patients and visitors safe. Personal safety devices were distributed to the system’s more than 29,000 team members. The events coincided with the May 12th birthday of Florence Nightingale, a 19th century British nurse, statistician and social reformer, who trained nurses and organized care for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War and is considered the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.
Sentara Announces New and Enhanced Safety and Security Measures
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that health care workers are four times more likely to experience workplace violence than other sectors. In 2021, Sentara established a Workforce Violence Prevention Task Force dedicated to addressing workplace violence and other safety events, with a goal of providing a safe, secure, and respectful environment for all employees, free from violent and aggressive behavior. Sentara uses the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) as a guide in defining workplace violence: any violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward Sentara team members/ contractors at work or on duty and include physical injury, threats, abuse, hostility, harassment, discriminatory language/behavior and other forms of verbal violence that can potentially escalate to physical violence.
Several recently instituted or forthcoming new and enhanced safety and security initiatives include:
- A senior director of security position was created to further improve and enhance security processes across the entire organization. Hired in late 2021, Stephen Hollowell brings more than thirty years of experience in law enforcement and security with tenures at Scotland Yard, Holy Cross Health in Maryland and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. His security experience includes post-9/11 vulnerability assessments for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, threat assessments for Fortune 500 companies and security coordination with the U.S. Secret Service during the annual United Nations General Assembly.
- A Visitor Management System is being deployed at all Sentara hospitals this year. Visitors will stop at the reception desk, present an ID, state their destination in the building and wear a visitor badge with name and photo. This new system will help to identify visitors and provide a reliable, efficient means of monitoring site security.
- Security officers are being provided enhanced tools, trainings and certifications to assist with de-escalating situations that could lead to serious safety events.
- A system-wide enhancement of behavioral health services is underway, including physical safety improvements in patient rooms in emergency departments and streamlined assessment and medical intervention protocols to speed diagnoses and placement of psychiatric patients in appropriate care settings.
- A new verbal de-escalation training module was recently launched to help instruct all employees on how to calmly and appropriately defuse tense situations. A second, more advanced and comprehensive workplace violence and safety de-escalation training module is required for employees working in emergency rooms, ICUs and departments with a higher risk of safety incidents.
Safety Beyond Workplace Violence
The first “Sentara Commitment” to patients to Always Keep You Safe, also applies to employees and visitors. Sentara recently implemented a “Be Kind” marketing campaign to educate the community and appeal to the shared emotional experience of COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of compassion and respect, especially towards health care employees. “Safe at Sentara” and “Be Kind” signage is posted throughout hospitals and medical practices.
Safety involves not just violence prevention but work-related injuries and exposures to hazardous materials. The total number of work-related injuries and incidents has decreased 15 percent since 2018, and workers’ compensation claims have decreased 25 percent during the same time period. The most common injuries – sprains and strains – have improved significantly, a positive trend attributed to enhanced staff education in safe lifting techniques and investment in new patient lifting devices.
Sentara Healthcare is proud to stand against workplace violence and promote workplace safety and security. We are committed to making a difference and providing a safe environment for our members, patients, visitors and employees.
By: Dale Gauding