By PATRICK HORINE
Every October we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important opportunity to discuss this widespread social and public health problem and to take stock of what we can do better to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Unfortunately, the data shows us that health care is often a dangerous profession that is also rife with domestic abuse. Earlier this month(largely by patients and/or visitors in the ER). However, other data shows us that individuals in the health care professions – especially women—may be at greater risk of domestic abuse from a spouse or partner, while on the job as well. shows us one in four women are in a dangerous domestic situation, and one in four victims are harassed at work by perpetrators. and an even greater percentage in most hospitals. When we do the math, this means one in 20 female healthcare workers are likely to be harassed or even assaulted on the job.
Furthermore, given that hospitals and most healthcare organizations are “open” facilities where anyone can walk onto the premises this further heightens the risk of a violent incident happening in the workplace.. by her estranged husband while her co-workers looked on are all too tragic and common.
Fortunately, a growing number of hospitals are taking proactive steps to keep employees safe and minimize the risk of domestic violence (and violence in general) both at the hospital and beyond. Because our organization accredits hospitals, we are in the business of working with them to enhance both patient safety — and employee safety.:
· A Clearly Written Company Workplace Violence Policy Statement
· Establishment of a Threat Assessment Team
· Hazard Assessments (For Workplace Violence)
· Workplace Hazard Control and Prevention
· Training and Education
· Incident Reporting, Investigation, Follow-up and Evaluation
These policies can help protect victims and would-be victims of domestic violence, especially when specific refinements are made to them. For example, a company workplace violence policy statement can/should include a police regarding domestic violence, and a zero-tolerance policy. Hazard assessment and control and prevention should look at all the ways an abuser might enter the premises to stalk, harass and or harm a victim.
In the case of domestic violence prevention hospitals can also go one step further to protect specific individuals. For example, by establishing a relationship with a local hotel and taxi company, the organization can give victims help with a safe place to stay.
During a recent presentation at our annual conference,. For example, because domestic abuse often occurs in an employee parking lot when the abuser confronts a victim coming to or leaving from work, the simple step of changing an employee’s assigned parking spot can provide some protection. Assisting a victim with a car rental can help as well, as can changing her (or his) schedule so the perpetrator is unaware of the hours the victim may be expected at work. Sharing the perpetrator’s photo, work schedule and vehicle make with security and grounds-keeping staff can help others be on the lookout as well.
For all forms of violence prevention in the workplace, staff training is key. With domestic violence, staff need to understand how to recognize the signs of abuse so they can support a victim and encourage him or her to seek help. Often these signs are not well understood or are overlooked. Moreover, staff need to understand the policies that exist, and specific steps they can take to help keep their co-worker safe while she or he is on the job. For example, staff need to understand they must report issues of concern to the police, such as when an abusive spouse or partner violates a restraining order and enters the premises. Staff directly involved in security at the hospital can and should receive additional training specifically related to domestic violence.
So much has been written about how healthcare staff can help identify and support victims of domestic abuse. But we have not spent enough time also focusing on our own employee populations. Unfortunately, the demographics and physical layout of a hospital put our own staff at heightened risk while on the job. If we take the time to put the right policies, protections, and staff training in place, we can help turn our hospitals into a place of safety and support for everyone.
Patrick Horine, MHA serves as the President of DNV GL Healthcare where he is responsible for the North American healthcare business of DNV GL