On Friday, AHA led the seventh annual #HAVhope Friday, part of its Hospitals Against Violence initiative, to focus national attention on ending all forms of violence in our workplaces and communities.

Hospitals and health systems across the country shared examples of how they are working with their community on partnerships, innovations and creative solutions to foster peace and make a safer environment for workers and patients.

This work continues each and every day throughout the year as hospitals and health systems lead and participate in efforts to mitigate and prevent violence. A few examples from the field:

  • NewYork-Presbyterian balances traditional security and emergency management processes with information technology infrastructure, including electronic medical record flagging, behavioral risk assessment and mass casualty event training, to prevent and mitigate workplace violence incidents at its 11 hospitals.
  • Bristol Health decreased workplace violence by upgrading its incident reporting system, boosting prevention education and supporting employees. The hospital has gained crucial support from local stakeholders and policymakers, which has inspired conversations about communitywide policy changes.
  • Inova formed a multidisciplinary team to evaluate current data, develop employee engagement strategies and ensure systemwide buy-in. These efforts have helped reduce the severity and frequency of injuries in Inova’s emergency departments, behavioral health units and across the system.

At Grady Health System, the organization I lead, we too balance traditional security and emergency management processes with information technology infrastructure, including EMR flagging and behavioral risk assessments, to prevent and mitigate workplace violence. We also train all staff in de-escalation, self-defense and response to emergency codes when they’re hired, annually and with any changes.

Years ago, we launched our WeCARE peer responder program, which addresses the needs of second victims at Grady. The WeCARE team assists when clinicians and staff need a reset, providing an opportunity for recovery after a traumatic event.

A new program at Grady is Interrupting Violence in Youth and Young Adults (IVYY), a hospital-based violence intervention program with a mission to reduce reinjury due to violence in youth and young adults ages 14–44 in Atlanta. Violence intervention specialists counsel patients and their families, offering access to wraparound services through mental health, social and economic community programs. In just a few months, IVYY has enrolled 125 people.

Also in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed the Safer Hospitals Act into law. It will allow hospitals in the state to have their own police force and will increase penalties for someone convicted of assaulting a health care worker. The law goes into effect July 1.

At the federal level, the AHA continues to advocate for the passage of the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act (H.R. 2584), bipartisan legislation that would give health care workers the same legal protections against assault and intimidation that flight crews and airport workers have under federal law. The bill also would establish a federal grant program at the Department of Justice to augment hospitals’ efforts to reduce violence, by funding violence prevention training programs, coordination with state and local law enforcement, and physical plant improvements, such as metal detectors and panic buttons.

Ensuring a culture of safety means prioritizing the physical and psychological safety of the health care workforce, patients, families and communities. It calls for assessing and reducing potential risks, recognizing and addressing physical and non-physical trauma and, just as important, collaborating with community partners to prevent ongoing or future violent incidents. The AHA will continue to lead and support efforts to build safe workplaces and communities.

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