Anyone familiar with the healthcare industry knows that staff shortages continue to be a problem, affecting everything from daily operations to future growth plans to investment strategies. And while it seems every effort is being made to address the problem through conventional methods like better recruitment efforts, generous salaries and more, there is one other root cause of the problem that is now in the spotlight thanks to new digital solutions that help to address it — staff safety.
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Dangerous and difficult work conditions are a major factor behind high staff turnover and difficulty in replacing those who move on in hospitals and specialized care facilities like behavioral health units. And it’s not hard to sympathize with huge numbers of dedicated medical professionals who, despite their love for the work they do, conclude that the risks are simply too great to carry on with jobs they have often held for many years. No one, especially those involved in the vital care of others, should have to worry about their physical safety and general well being while at work.
But workplace safety, long a priority and always an area of concern, has taken on additional significance at a time when an industry that is growing as society ages struggles to meet demand for staff. When healthcare workers account for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries due to violence, it’s clear that addressing this issue is mission-critical for an industry that needs to continue to attract talent to meet its staffing needs.
All of the factors that make recruiting and retaining staff in healthcare generally are typically even more difficult in behavioral health facilities. The unique characteristics of the patient profile in these facilities increase the potential for aggressive interactions and the increased unpredictability of the patients adds another element of danger.
Nurses, doctors and others interacting with patients in behavioral health institutions are trained in the extra measures used to minimize violent confrontations and mitigate their effects when they do happen. Still, the heightened threat level is something that adds to the general levels of tension and unease experienced by staff when they have to treat every interaction as a potential physical struggle.
Also, the nature of large, complex buildings designs — including being attached to a parking lot — unfortunately create even more dangerous opportunities in which physical assaults take place. The FBI says that parking facilities are the third most common site of murders and assaults in the US. Examples of such assaults are unfortunately all too common. According to recent FBI statistics, 6% of the nation’s violent crimes occur in parking facilities, topped only by personal residences and sidewalks or alleys.
Even though these facilities already use multiple layers of security, including video surveillance, emergency call stations, and other elements, it is still not enough to provide complete protection, particularly for staff members who find themselves in isolated areas.
Nurses and other hospital staff often work in shifts that bring them to hospital parking facilities at very late or very early hours, leaving them alone or nearly so. This means that, in fact, the dangers associated with working in healthcare facilities extend beyond the narrowly defined workplace and to a short time before and after the actual performance of the job.
It’s not just the ward or wing that needs an additional layer of security monitoring, but the larger campus or building complex as well.
So what can healthcare facilities do to help protect staff against physical assaults by both patients and non-patients and make it possible to quickly intervene when needed? Security guards certainly have their place and will always be part of a comprehensive security posture but they can’t be everywhere at all times and significantly increasing their numbers brings great costs without accompanying increases in productivity.
And even if your budget allows for it, do you really want your facility’s atmosphere to be defined by the presence of large numbers of security guards?
New technology has created effective, discreet and affordable solutions that use highly accurate location tracking capabilities and Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) connectivity to extend a virtual security network anywhere your staff goes. Even when they’re physically separated from help in a remote part of a facility or working alone with a patient, their presence is constantly monitored and they can easily be found with room-level accuracy with the touch of a button on their badge.
But the real value of this network, in terms of safety, is the staff’s ability to use it to call for help from wherever they are – even when beyond earshot of other employees and isolated. Connected badges with emergency buttons can be comfortably worn on lanyards and serve as a live 24/7 call button any time help is needed.
While digital staff duress solutions can never fully eliminate encounters with aggressive patients, it can give nurses and others the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are never truly cut off from help they can call with the press of a button, no matter where they are in the hospital complex.
Improved safety conditions mean a better employee experience, which means greater job satisfaction and employees who can focus on delivering better care, which itself results in better patient outcomes. It’s a virtuous chain with measurable benefits at every step but it all has to start with employees feeling that they are spending their day in a secure environment that helps them deal with threats in the best way possible.
Improving safety in healthcare facilities has become mission-critical for a number of reasons, and Kontakt.io’s cloud-enabled solutions, paired with wireless smart badge holders, create a complete solution to your behavioral health facilities. We are also integrated with Cisco, which allows for faster integration if your facility already uses their infrastructure, and we also promote open standards and integrate via API with existing staff duress apps.
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