As COVID-19 continues to affect the U.S. population, healthcare workers continue to put their lives on the line every day to ensure patients receive high-quality care. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was no secret that nurses and healthcare staff were at risk of experiencing violence on the job, which has only been exacerbated by the circumstances of the past year. A recent National Nurses United survey conducted with 15,000 U.S. registered nurses found that 20% reported increased workplace violence due to decreased staff levels, different patient populations, and changing visitation restrictions1 set during the pandemic. 

The World Health Organization reports that as high as 38% of healthcare workers face physical violence sometime during their careers, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites that sources of violence can come from patients, visitors, intruders and even co-workers. As the pandemic introduces an influx of violence on healthcare workers, especially for staff within hospital emergency departments, security directors and their teams must protect these frontline heroes by implementing solutions that can consistently increase staff and patient security and reduce incidents of violence.  


Whether celebrating a day or the entirety of National Emergency Nurses and Healthcare Safety Week this October, many healthcare organizations have planned appreciation programs, but perhaps this year calls for more. With the increased violence impacting healthcare staff, there has never been a stronger case for security directors and leadership to consider how they can better support their team, provide a safer environment, and ensure clinical staff can focus on the critical work they do to keep communities safe year-round. 


Confidently Protect Staff with Real-Time Duress Technology


After more than a year of unprecedented sacrifice, lightening the concerns of healthcare staff is crucial. As hospitals and other healthcare facilities continue recuperating from the fallout of COVID-19, real-time location systems (RTLS) can provide a cost-effective staff duress solution that prevents threats from escalating to dangerous events. 


The technology behind RTLS enables staff members to discreetly send panic alerts from active-RFID location-enabled wearables. Responders can then view the healthcare worker’s specific location and recruit the closest team member to immediately respond to the alert. An RTLS-based security solution can help decrease violent events while providing healthcare personnel invaluable peace of mind and more control in their working environment.


An RTLS-Based Security Solution in Action


Even if responders are only a few feet away, physically signaling for help may further provoke a violent interaction and cause it to escalate. An RTLS staff duress alerting system utilizes IoT-enabled badges featuring wireless call functionality that empowers workers to quietly summon for help by simply pressing a button on their badge. With duress technology literally at their fingertips, medical personnel can request help anytime/anywhere in the facility and rest assured that assistance is on the way.


Using a wireless network, the RTLS-based security system alerts for immediate assistance and notes the location and name of the employee making the emergency call. Based on the facility’s unique requirements, responding staff and hospital teams can receive alerts through computer workstations, email, SMS alerts, display monitors, VoIP phone messages, security dispatchers, and alarm lights/buzzers. The redundancy ensures that the duress alert is received and addressed as quickly as possible. For enhanced capabilities, security directors can consider RTLS duress solutions that offer clinical-grade locating (CGL). CGL can be defined as accurate, precise locating of a person or an asset. With CGL, security personnel and other staff members are able to pinpoint the exact location of the alert without wasting time searching the wrong room or floor. The system provides quick, real-time location updates, so if the staff member is being moved during a duress situation, responding personnel has visibility into their new location. CGL is the preferred solution for life safety use cases, like staff duress.  


Coupled with secure software applications, the location technology can show real-time maps of the interior building, individual floors, rooms, nursing stations, hallways, stairways, and other workflow areas so teams can direct the closest staff member to the exact location of the incident. Appropriate personnel can immediately locate the employee under duress and even receive real-time location change updates during the situation. Rapid alerts and location visibility increase response times to prevent staff injury, especially in high-risk areas such as the emergency department and behavioral health units. 


Serving as a comprehensive security solution, RTLS technology can also integrate with traditional security systems, video management systems, access control, mass notification systems, and other healthcare technologies such as nurses call systems.   


Through the integration of an RTLS staff duress solution, a Louisiana Level 1 Trauma hospital significantly reduced assaults and increased staff satisfaction. In the past, the Louisiana hospital experienced traumatic situations such as active shooters and violence from patients and visitors. During the active shooter, as well as other situations, security was able to respond quickly and appropriately as staff activated alerts to identify the dangerous situation taking place. Leadership noted that these events “solidified to the entire team that the RTLS duress solutions work” for both large-scale violent events and the day-to-day.


Embracing RTLS Technology


While staff may initially resist or dismiss RTLS technology as just another protocol to follow, its proven results are a game-changer for their safety. After a rocky start at the Louisiana Level 1 Trauma hospital, the staff has fully embraced RTLS following daily use of the duress solution and experiencing the life-saving benefits. The hospital now plans to expand the system throughout the entire facility. 


Selecting an RTLS partner with a comprehensive suite of solutions makes it easier to expand the system to other aspects of healthcare operations and facilities in the future. Many RTLS platforms offer the capability to collect high-level data that provides security teams with actionable analytics to identify and flag risk exposures. By reviewing security information, senior management can improve processes and facility workflow design to proactively increase staff safety and optimize the delivery of care for a more secure environment.

Healthcare systems have continuously found that RTLS-based security solutions can significantly decrease the severity of an incident. Through education on the technology’s purpose and an understanding of how it can diffuse a dangerous situation, healthcare staff will find peace of mind and gain a safer environment using the technology.