UC Irvine Health workplace violence prevention plan helps protect healthcare workers

Strengthening our commitment to a culture of safety

June 30, 2016

UC Irvine Health has expanded safety training to all hospital staff that provide direct patient care, indirectly interact with patients, and has also developed employee security plans for all departments. The effort meets requirements of the Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare Act, which requires that hospitals institute new safety programs by July 1, 2016. The UC Irvine Health Security Department began offering the expanded safety training in March 2015.

California’s previous law only required safety training for emergency department staff and violence prevention plans for emergency rooms and other areas deemed “high risk.” The new law requires a safety plan and training for all hospital staff and departments, as well as greater security in surrounding areas, like parking lots, particularly during late night and early morning shifts.

“Working in a hospital environment comes with very real risks,” explained Charles Chase, security operations manager for UC Irvine Health. “You never know who’s going to walk in those doors and in what state of mind. People are under stress, and when emotions run high, the situational dynamics are fluid and can turn volatile, increasing the possibility for aggressive behavior.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, studies have shown that in general, the circumstances that can contribute to unsafe working conditions include patients experiencing dementia, delirium, severe drug reactions, alcohol and drug withdrawals, as well as prolonged wait times.

“Workplace violence in a healthcare setting is a complex issue, and an effective plan requires a multidisciplinary approach,” Chase said. “We engaged with our colleagues in nursing, environmental health and safety, and executive leadership to identify the types of hazards specific to our setting and then developed policies and procedures most appropriate for reducing or eliminating workplace violence.” 

Chase said the workplace violence prevention training classes teach strategies and provide tools for dealing with angry patients, family members or other visitors; techniques for avoiding conflict escalation; and recognizing when it is time to call a member of the security team.

“This plan continues to strengthen our culture of safety, as we strive to provide a safe and healing environment for patients, families, visitors, doctors, nurses and all hospital staff,” said Dr. Douglas G. Merrill, chief medical officer, UC Irvine Health, and senior associate dean for quality and patient safety, UC Irvine School of Medicine. “Those who have attended training classes have learned new coping skills and de-escalation strategies for dealing with a hostile situation, and are confident that when the need arises, a member of our highly trained security team will be there to assist them and get the situation safely back under control.”

UC Irvine Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UC Irvine Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and it is the primary teaching hospital for the UC Irvine School of Medicine. UC Irvine Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu

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