Workplace Violence in the Health Sector: An Administrator's Greatest Concern

By Self-defense expert Jeffrey M. Miller
(C) 2009 Warrior Concepts Int'l, Inc.

Of all the myths, false beliefs, and misinformation that's bandied around about workplace violence in the health sector and violence in the workplace in general, there is one that is causing more harm than good. I've found that, by and large, the greatest concern of administrators and managers is not that there is violence in their facility, but in handling those situations that cannot be prevented.

Over the past few years, the medical and healthcare sector has awakened to the fact that it has a serious problem with workplace violence. And, while it is true that some of these incidents do involve attacks from within the organization, in general the healthcare industry has one of the lowest rates of employee-initiated attacks in the form of physical violence.

However, statistics paint a very alarming picture when they show that the average nurse is assaulted on average about three times a year. In fact, in non-fatal workplace violence assaults, over two-thirds of all women attacked on the job, work in the healthcare or social services industries.

As a result, and rightly so, more and more facilities are instituting not only workplace violence prevention policies and plans, but also creating committees and boards to oversee the training and execution of these critical business elements. Unfortunately, these plans and policies have the same gaping hole as do most other plans across other industries. And this gap is present in spite of the fact that, right along with "zero tolerance" statements, banned weapons lists, and reporting policy suggestions, OSHA and other international safety organizations recommend that every company and facility have the missing element needed to fill this void.

What is this missing piece? Good question. In fact, it's the piece that will actually protect the target of aggression "during" an attack!

While every plan will have prevention elements, and the necessary procedures for reporting incidents and punishing offenders, almost all are missing the actual defensive tactics that will save a manager or coworker from being beaten, broken, or killed in a workplace violence attack. The most common reason for this lack of attention? Administrators are concerned that if employees know how to defend themselves, that they are more likely to lash out or cause excessive damage should something occur.

When in fact...the opposite is actually true.

Ask around your facility and identify those employees who have already, of their own accord, learned or are currently studying some form of self-defense or martial art. How many of these people exhibit the typical warning signs or characteristics of a potential threat?

In fact, people who feel that they can handle themselves in a dangerous situation are typically more calm under pressure, less likely to take offense or react to negative peer pressure, and will definitely cause less collateral damage than someone who panics and doesn't know what to do.

Administrator's should rethink their fears and concerns when it comes to providing workplace violence training in the areas of self-defense, attack evasion, and assault avoidance - all of which are suggested by OSHA as elements of a "complete" workplace violence plan. Don't take my word for it, either. You have access to all the scientific proof you need in your psychiatric and sociology department professionals.

If you want to make sure that your facility and employees are as safe as possible against the threat of workplace violence, I invite you to contact me through my international office in the US at (570) 988-2228 for your free initial assessment.

Jeffrey M. Miller is a former police officer, undercover investigator, private detective, and bodyguard, He is the founder of Warrior Concepts International, Inc., and a co-author of the upcoming book: "Workplace Violence In The Mental Health And General Healthcare System" For more information about training for your staff and facility, visit WCI Consulting's workplace violence prevention and training site.