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Stepwise Success

Is Your Hospital Secure?

Published December 21, 2012 6:09 AM by Scott Warner

The recent tragedy in Connecticut has spurred debate on topics related to public safety, which is good. Our most vulnerable citizens need protection. This includes children, the elderly and infirm, and patients in hospitals.

That list includes healthcare workers, too. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), healthcare workers are at much higher risk for workplace violence than all other private sector industries, including physical assault, rape, attacks using weapons, and homicide. Risk factors include working with volatile people who are under the influence of drugs, working understaffed, overcrowding, long waits for service, lack of security, unrestricted public access, and lack of staff training.

We don’t know how bad the problem is, but what we do know is bad enough. In 2009, there were 660 aggravated assaults and 2,720 simple assaults in hospitals. The Joint Commission estimates hospital violence is on the rise and may be underreported. And a 2010 survey of emergency room nurses reports this: 97.1% of violence is perpetrated by patients and family members, 80.6% happens in patient rooms, and more male (15%) than female nurses (10.3%) report being victims of physical violence.

Laboratory workers are frequently in patient care areas, especially at times of crisis or trauma, and are often mistaken for nurses; anyone in a uniform is fair game. Laboratories are off the beaten path in many hospitals, in less traveled areas or on otherwise empty floors. A lone lab tech on an empty floor with the door unlocked is a sitting duck.

It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that I started a career in an industry housed in sheltered havens for healing the sick. Violent assault seemed rare. I’ve always thought of hospitals as great, safe places to work until recently. Security officers, cameras, lockdowns, and proximity key codes were unheard of in hospitals even a few decades ago. Now they are commonplace. Such is our world, in which our most vulnerable citizens and those who care for them are at ever greater risk.

Take a walk around your hospital today, observe, and answer: is your hospital secure?

NEXT: The Next Big Thing



It can be challenging to get people to see a safety or security concern as serious. If an incident has not happened, the status quo is often considered safe enough.

If I understand your issue correctly, you have a concern that people in the lounge may not be reachable in an emergency. I suggest starting with administrative policies describing availability requirements for employees. You may have a policy, for example, stating that employees can't leave the building or something more specific that applies.

Depending on the building construction, telephones are inexpensive to install compared to a patient safety incident. If that is not feasible, suggesting an alternative can be helpful. A buzzer or light is another way to alert people in your lounge that there is an emergency.

Hope that helps!

Scott Warner January 7, 2013 7:28 PM

I've seen guests got lost in our laboratory building. People can walk through our hallway. All our doors inlcuding Staff Lounge  are locked. You can't get in unless you swipe your badge.

This is my concern ;

There is no telephone in our Staff Lounge and is separated from the lab. I've suggested my Manager to install a telephone in case of emergency even though some Techs  bring their personal Smart phone in their pocket. She said it will cost her more to install this phone.

If  you got stuck in the Staff Lounge with no phone and there is is an issue, it will be a big problem. You cannot call for help.

How should I approach this issue ?

Lurline Wagner, Microbiology - Med. Tech II, VCUHS January 6, 2013 10:46 PM
Richmond VA

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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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