According to the United State Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Standards, “Workers in healthcare settings face significant risks of workplace violence. From 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents (those requiring days off for an injured worker to recuperate) was more than four times greater in healthcare than in private industry on average.”

When St. John’s Episcopal Hospital (SJEH) staff expressed grave concerns around the physical and verbal violence directed toward them from patients and visitors, 1199SEIU and SJEH management leadership enlisted the Labor Management Project (LMP) to develop an organization-wide Team Member Safety Committee (TMSC) to increase the safety of all SJEH staff, residents, and volunteers.

The TMSC and LMP identified and trained three Committee co-leads to facilitate the effort and established several work teams: Education and Training, Data Collection, Communication and Community Outreach, and Wellness. The TMSC undertook root cause analysis of all incidents that resulted or could have resulted in physical or psychological harm and revised the hospital’s workplace violence policies.  A Helping Healers program addressed secondary trauma. The team also engaged with 101st Precinct Community Affairs Officers, attended the monthly Community Advisory Committee meetings, and tabled at Patient Safety Fairs. New team members are now oriented to safety policies.

The TMSC improved hospital processes for incident reporting, including the capture of near misses and the re-launch of the “Eyes Open Hotline,” a dedicated line for team members to report safety issues and concerns. Safety signage was produced and posted and approval for increased security personnel was obtained.

This initiative is critical to the long-standing success and vitality of SJEH for several reasons:

  • All workers need to be protected and feel safe in their working environment
  • SJEH is the only hospital in the Rockaways and provides critical services to an underserved community
  • SJEH is an economic driver providing an important source of employment for the community

After a year of TMSC work, incidents resulting in staff injury declined by nine percent, incidents involving a disruptive patient declined by 24 percent, and incidents involving a disruptive visitor declined by 10 percent.

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