Safety Program Codifies Risk of Hospital Violence

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2010

They developed a safety program that uses a green-yellow-red color-coded alert system that shows the security status with lights in strategic places in the ED. For example, when ED staff encounter patients with behavioral problems, victims of violent crime, surge-capacity issues, gang activity, multivictim trauma, and other events that could lead to a higher of risk for violence, physicians, nurses and security staff briefly huddle to discuss changing the department's status from green (business as usual) to yellow (potential for disruptive behavior) to red (potential for loss of control of any part of the ED). When security status changes, a three-second alarm and change in light color alert staff to the new situation.

“The training may not prevent unexpected violent outbursts, but staff are better able to identify people at risk of individual violent behavior and know when to cue a potential change in security status,” said Tami Morin, ED clinical nurse manager at UWHC.


Front-line healthcare professionals like the folks at UWHC tend to be practical problem-solvers. They understand it’s probably not realistic to think that workplace violence in the hospital can be eradicated. However, raising staff awareness, and training staff in appropriate responses will give them the tools they need to react accordingly to protect themselves, their colleagues, patients, and visitors.    

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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