Community nurses, personal home care aides, and other traveling staff practice in some of the most dangerous situations in the healthcare industry, often without nearby support. Our new report demonstrates how technology can empower traveling healthcare workers' personal safety.
The healthcare industry is one of the most dangerous places to work in the U.S. In addition to a high rate of occupation injuries due to musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to pathogens, and slips, trips, and falls, incidents of serious workplace violence are four times more common in the healthcare industry than in private industry on average according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (PDF).
In reality, the situation is likely to be much worse. A survey conducted in 2013 by the Wayne State University of Medicine in Detroit found a workplace violence underreporting rate of 77% - which increased to 88% due to supervisors failing to document reports. One of the reasons given for the underreporting rate is that the victims of workplace violence did not know how to make a report.
The Level of Threats to Traveling Healthcare Workers' Personal Safety
The results of the Detroit survey invalidate many other statistics relating to workplace violence in healthcare. Therefore, although it was claimed by the New England Journal of Medicine that 61% of community nurses, personal home care aides, and other traveling staff report workplace violence annually, the actual number of victims could be considerably higher with the consequence being that, without full knowledge of the scale of workplace violence, prevention efforts are mostly inadequate.
However, assuming the rate of underreporting is equally dividing between on-premises healthcare employees and off-premises healthcare employees, a survey published in the British Medical Journal found that nurses working remotely were twice as likely to experience violence or aggression at work as those working on-premises. The discrepancy was attributed to patients' homes being uncontrolled work environments in which none of the usual safety features of a healthcare facility were present.
Efforts to Reduce Workplace Violence in the Healthcare Industry
What efforts have been made to reduce workplace violence in the healthcare industry have mostly occurred at state level. Forty-two states have legislation on their statutes that either establish or increase penalties for violence against healthcare professionals, and eight of these states also make it a licensing requirement that healthcare facilities run workplace violence prevention programs.
OSHA has also developed guidance for employers and workers in healthcare and social services (PDF), and this guidance has recently become the backbone of a federal bill introduced into Congress by Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney - with a significant difference being that the language of HR 7141 (PDF) includes a reference to home health care workers, which is noticeably absent from OSHA guidance.
How Tech Empowers Traveling Healthcare Workers' Personal Safety
Courtney's “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Workers Act” does not go as far as Oregon's state legislation for protecting home health care workers. The state's HB 2022 from 2007 (PDF) stipulates that home health care workers have the right to refuse to treat a patient unless they are provided with a “communication device” with which they can alert law enforcement to an assault.
Since 2007 - the year when the first iPhone was released - the range of communication devices available to empower traveling healthcare workers' personal safety has improved dramatically. It is now possible for traveling healthcare workers to download smartphone apps that can alert law enforcement to an assault with two touches of a screen, or that can be used by employers to alert employees of an emergency situation.
Further Benefits of Smartphone Apps for Traveling Healthcare Workers
Apps with a safety timer can be used as virtual escorts to alert employers quickly to a potential assault situation when a timer is activated, or they can be used as a directory of resources for healthcare personnel who have experienced a non-physical assault (i.e. car theft). Importantly the apps can also be used as a means of reporting and recording workplace violence in the healthcare industry so that the scale of the issue becomes more apparent and more effective prevention methods are implemented.
Healthcare managers with a responsibility for the health and safety of community nurses, personal home care aides, and other traveling staff can find out more about how tech empowers traveling healthcare workers' personal safety by downloading our new free report.
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