Workplace Violence in Healthcare: Why It’s a Patient Experience Issue

Panel to discuss best practices at 2019 Patient Experience Summit

Three out of four workplace assaults happen in a healthcare environment, reported a 2016 article in The New England Journal of Medicine. And healthcare workers’ risk of injury due to workplace violence is four times greater than that of workers in other industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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The reasons are varied. But K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Executive Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic, offers this summary:  Drug and alcohol abuse, mental health disorders, interpersonal conflicts and increasing exposure to violence in the media can blend into a toxic fuel that can explode when sparked by the stress of sickness or other life-changing news. And healthcare workers often are on the front lines.

It’s a major issue for healthcare, especially in light of the industry’s patient experience movement.

“How should caregivers show empathy for patients and families under stress while facing the risk of personal assault?” asks Hancock.

That will be the topic of a keynote session at the 2019 Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit, May 13-15 in Cleveland.

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The panel discussion will be led by Hancock. Panelists will include Christy Sandborg, MD, Chief Experience Officer at Stanford University School of Medicine; Janet Schuster, DNP, MBA, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital and Co-Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Workplace Violence Committee; and Gordon Snow, Chief Security Officer at Cleveland Clinic.

Presenters will share how their organizations have been affected by acts or threats of physical violence, harassment and intimidation. They also will share best practices for curtailing these incidents and improving the resiliency of caregivers.

At Cleveland Clinic that includes:

  • Non-Abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention (NAPPI) training, during which caregivers learn how to identify and de-escalate threatening situations.
  • A SHIELD Conference, where caregivers learned about violence in healthcare, disaster preparation, drug epidemics and general security.
  • An enterprise-wide Workplace Violence Committee.
  • An online system through which caregivers can report alarming incidents.
  • The Speak-Up Award, for caregivers who go above and beyond in reporting workplace concerns.
  • Support resources for caregivers affected by workplace violence.

“Healthcare organizations need to take better care of caregivers so they can take better care of patients,” says Hancock. “At Cleveland Clinic, we are creating a culture that encourages caregivers to speak up about workplace safety and assures them they’ll be supported.”

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For more information on the Patient Experience Summit or to register, visit