Healthcare workers suffer half of all workplace assaults, and about 80 percent of them come from the patients they’re caring for. Those statistics formed the basis for one-half of a healthcare seminar Wednesday at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, where about 150 industry professionals gathered to hear best practices related to workplace violence and the presence of an active shooter. The DFW Hospital Council put on the event. A major takeaway: Being proactive and staying prepared are key.
With regard to workplace violence, employers should do their best to keep stress levels low in the workplace, said Art Lambert, an attorney at Fisher Phillips, which sponsored the event. That takes paying attention to problems when they’re small so that they can alleviate them before they become bigger. “If somebody complains about somebody harassing them or bullying them, we do something about it,” Lambert said.
Employers should emphasize to employees that they have a duty to report incidents, and train supervisors so that they’re ready to identify threats, find people who persistently cause problems, or show warning signs like constantly lying or exhibiting a fascination with weapons, Lambert said. Employees, he added, should be well-trained on a workplace violence policy so that best practices become second nature, the way repeated fire drills prepare us for a fire.
For the active shooter portion of the morning, Dan Birbeck, patrol captain at the Dallas County Hospital District Police Department, preached the necessity of remaining calm, breathing, and thinking through the available options.
He said people who find themselves in an active shooter situation should follow the ADD rule: avoid, deny, and defend. The first option is to avoid the area where the shooting is taking place entirely, following a clear path to escape if it exists. Otherwise, Birbeck suggested putting as many barriers as possible between yourself and the shooter—finding, for instance, a locked office within a locked room in a closed-off corridor of the hospital. Mass shooters “are people of paths of least resistance,” he said. If it comes to it, Birbeck said hospital staff should defend themselves with anything around, from a scalpel to a fire extinguisher.
Birbeck also emphasized that healthcare providers should prepare their staffs with training on what to do in the event of an active shooter situation. Plans for things like door blockers or locks should be well-established, and staffs should keep emergency kits inside rooms so that they’re prepared. He encouraged hospitals to staff their facilities with armed personnel.
“You have to have the plan; you have to be prepared for the worst,” he said. “Don’t find yourself in denial, because denial is a killer.”