5 Strategies to Shield Your Practice Against Violence and Threats

No matter how different our political views are, we can’t dispute the increase in violence across the country in the past few years.

Every day, we hear about gun violence, hate crimes, gang fights, violence in schools, and crimes in everyday life.

While we may not be the victims today, violence affects us all, reaching even the smallest corners of the country.

Violence does not discriminate.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ve also seen an uptick in violence in healthcare settings.

Violence in the workplace is found across all industries. However, healthcare and social services are affected by it up to five times more than all others.

While frightening, it’s critical to take proactive steps and do what can be done to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in the office.

Here are five strategies for you to review and implement:

#1 Develop a Zero-Tolerance Policy:

Clearly communicate to all patients and staff that threats, violence, and abusive behavior will not be tolerated in your clinic.

Define what constitutes unacceptable behavior in your space. Examples may include verbal abuse, bringing firearms into the clinic, or exhibiting violent behavior.

Consider broadening your policy to include any behavior jeopardizing the safety and well-being of others in your clinic.

Make sure this policy is prominently displayed and included in all patient intake materials. If anyone violates your policy, take immediate action.

Let offenders and others know that you mean business and won’t put up with policy violations!

#2 Implement Security Measures:

Consider implementing security measures in your clinic, such as installing security cameras and buzzer systems.

Security Cameras:

Evaluate installing security cameras in strategic locations. It could help deter potential threats and provide evidence in case an incident occurs.

However, installing security cameras is expensive and may range from a few hundred dollars to upwards of a few thousand.  

While security cameras may not be feasible for the small practice due to cost, there is another consideration… HIPAA compliance.

Many healthcare organizations, including pharmacies, labs, hospitals, etc., utilize security cameras following best practices to maintain HIPAA compliance.

Video footage recorded by cameras placed in a healthcare setting is considered PHI. Hence, any security cameras must be installed following strict guidelines to ensure HIPAA compliance. If you’re interested in learning more, you can take a look at this site.

Depending on your practice’s location, security cameras may already be installed on the property outside your office. Alternatively, you may check with your landlord and ask for equipment to be installed to increase the property’s overall safety.

Door Buzzer Systems:

Most of us are familiar with door buzzer systems in apartments or various work environments. 

A door buzzer would allow you to restrict access to certain clinic areas; only authorized personnel may enter once they gain access via the buzzer.

Purchase and installation costs for a basic system may range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the system and the number of access points.

Installing a buzzer system may be feasible even for a smaller office. Such systems could control access to office spaces and treatment areas, increasing safety.

Utilizing a door buzzer system may be particularly important if you work alone or frequently work late in the office.

Security Monitoring Companies:

Security companies offer various levels of monitoring options to residential and businesses alike. Many companies provide HIPAA-compliant options.

Depending on your practice’s needs and the security company you’re working with, you may be able to contract for monitoring services, security management, safety apps, and even wearable panic buttons.

Today, many companies offer the above service. Do your due diligence, evaluate your options, and choose the ones that are right for your circumstances.

#3 Staff Training:

Provide regular training for all staff on conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, and how to respond to threatening or violent behavior.

Ensure employees know how to respond to emergencies, including evacuating safely, administering first aid, and communicating effectively during an emergency.

Review how you will communicate with each other, patients, and emergency services in case of an emergency.

Include alternative communication methods, such as two-way radios, a phone tree, or a single point of contact to handle all communication in case traditional communication methods are unavailable.

Offer support services for staff who have experienced threats, violence, or other emergencies, including counseling or debriefing sessions. Ensure that staff feel safe and supported in their work environment.

Support and encourage your staff to report any incidents immediately.

#4 Emergency Response Plan:

Develop and regularly review an emergency response plan for violent incidents and other emergencies.

Make sure all employees are familiar with the plan and know their roles in case of an emergency or threat.

When developing your emergency plan, outline its purpose and scope. Clearly define the type of emergencies covered, such as natural disasters, security threats, or medical emergencies.

Define the roles and responsibilities of all staff members and their alternates. This should include who will contact emergency services, notify staff and patients, etc.

Document emergency procedures and contacts to notify in case of emergency.

Include an evacuation plan in your planning and go over it with employees as part of reviewing the emergency response plan.

Create different scenarios of events and outline the response your staff and you will take in case of an emergency or threatening event.

Consider reaching out to local law enforcement and other agencies to establish relationships with people who can assist in managing potentially volatile and emergency situations. Be proactive.

#5 Regular Safety Audits:

Conduct regular safety audits of your clinic to identify and address security vulnerabilities.

This should include reviewing your physical space, policies, and procedures and scrutinizing your day-to-day practices to uncover potential security threats. 

When evaluating your physical space, consider how patients move through the clinic and how it could be altered to improve security.

Check your policies and procedures to ensure they include the proper language and notices to patients and employees explaining your stance on acceptable and appropriate behavior.

Evaluate the training provided to staff on safety, security, and emergency preparedness to ensure they are prepared to respond effectively in an emergency.

Verify your clinic is up-to-date and in compliance with relevant regulations and standards related to safety, security, and emergency preparedness.

Identify potential security risks and hazards within the clinic. Develop steps to mitigate these risks, such as implementing additional security measures or updating your policies and procedures.

Regular safety audits can help you identify and address potential safety and security hazards and risks in your clinic.

In Summary…

Acknowledging the potential for violence and emergencies will go a long way toward boosting safety in your office.  

Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee 100% safety… anywhere.

However, taking proactive measures and implementing the necessary steps will help create a safer environment for patients and staff and reduce your clinic’s risk of violent incidents and other threats.

What have you done to make your office safer for you, your staff, and your patients?

Let’s exchange ideas and learn from our collective experience… tell us below.

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