The rise of violence inside hospitals, including both physical attacks and verbal abuse, makes workers and patients feel vulnerable and unsafe. Legislative initiatives are aimed at the solving the problem, but security technology also plays an important role.

One example is multi-layered security solutions that encompass identity, access and visitor management software and include staff IDs & duress-alerting tools to give employees a way to silently alert the correct contacts if they are in danger. By allowing employees to trigger a centrally managed response to their location, hospital security programs can help protect nurses from harm while also reducing the stress they previously felt in today’s challenging hospital environment and increasing confidence that they are in a safe place.

Dangers are growing

Many organizations are studying the problem of hospital violence. One example is the American Hospital Association, which reported in a June 2022 study that 48% of all nurses were physically assaulted since the start of the pandemic, and 68% suffered verbal abuse. A similar survey conducted in 2022 by National Nurses United found that almost half of the respondents reported an increase in workplace violence. Incidents like these are helping to drive nurses away — a 2021 survey from Incredible Health found that over one-third of nurses were planning to leave their jobs at the end of 2022, with burnout and a high-stress environment cited as top reasons.

In response, U.S. House Bill H.R. 7961 was introduced in June 2022 with a combination of bipartisan support and the backing of groups like the American Hospital Association. In the fall of 2022, multiple medical associations urged the U.S. Attorney General to investigate those who are inciting, coordinating, provoking and carrying out attacks against hospitals across the nation.

Meanwhile, hospitals are wielding new technologies to combat workplace violence. They are budgeting for and preparing to deploy multi-layered solutions that provide a comprehensive approach to hospital safety and security.


Powerful combination: visitor management, duress badge holders and rtls

The following three layers of a comprehensive solution can work together to help security leaders create a safe and secure healthcare environment:

Layer #1: Visitor and Patient Management

Security technology can help regulate access and traffic flow for patients, visitors and contractors. They also give hospitals and patients the flexibility to tailor their visitation policies, i.e., by including the option to support designations of preapproved and disallowed visitors.

These visitor and patient management systems can help improve safety by enabling administrators to see and relay information about people and events, from active shooter incidents and subsequent lockdown strategies to emergency mustering and ensuring everyone is accounted for during this process.

Layer #2: Duress Alarms

Knowing where hospital staff members are in the facility in real time gives them a way to notify the correct people when and where they are in danger. Staff — especially nurses — can use duress alarms, such as panic buttons that they can push when they need help. Duress alarms can allow a caregiver to secretly and silently call for help, reducing the chance that violence might accelerate if an attacker finds out help is on the way.

Layer #3: RTLS Options

Healthcare security leaders can use real-time location systems (RTLS) to improve situational awareness. One option is patient management devices that are worn around the wrist like a watch and can be used along with hospital staff duress alarms.

Best practices for implementing multi-layered security

Security leaders planning on leveraging technology to reduce workplace violence should ensure the tools they use adhere to CDC, local health department, Joint Commission and HIPAA rules and regulations, and support consistent standard policies, audit attestation and out-of-the-box reporting. Administrators should evaluate how their prospective visitor and patient management solution integrates with current HR, IT and access control systems.

Investing in visitor and patient management, duress alerting and RTLS capabilities can help healthcare security leaders deliver a more secure, efficient and convenient hospital environment for patients, workers and visitors. The bigger value, though, will be how it reassures those who are providing medical care and comforting their loved ones. People who feel safe are in a much better position to help the sick and suffering.