Staying Safe Takes Leadership

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Magazine , December 8, 2009
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Summa Health System in Akron, OH, is about to roll out its new active shooter policy, says Howard Hunt, system safety officer.

Summa's new policy will emphasize that employees in the midst of a violent situation take the following actions:

  • Don't risk harm to yourself or others
  • Maintain eye contact with the assailant, and pay attention to what he or she says
  • Do not speak unless spoken to—follow instructions from the person who has the weapon,/li>
  • Attempt to keep the assailant in the immediate area
  • Never try to grab the weapon
  • Await further assistance from security or responding law enforcement

Five Easy Ways to Protect Staff from Violent Patients
Some simple precautions can keep healthcare workers safe should they find themselves in a violent situation. The trick is what they wear, said Barbara Bisset, PhD, MPH, MS, RN, executive director of the Emergency Services Institute at WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, NC.

Here are five easy steps your staff members can take:

  • Store stethoscopes in pockets. They can be used as a choking device.
  • Don't wear dangling earrings. A violent or confused patient might cause injury by pulling on the jewelry.
  • Keep long hair up or pulled back. "It's long and flowing, it looks beautiful, but working in [a hospital], it's not appropriate from an infection control perspective and from a safety perspective," Bisset said.
  • Don't wear ties. There are risks of being choked with the neckware.
  • Wear a breakaway lanyard. The breakaway style prevents fabric and cards from being used as weapons.

Scott Wallask is an editor for HCPro, Inc. He may be contacted at

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