Jails are Safe Places for Health Care Workers

Spark Training

In 2016, The New England Journal of Medicine published a review article entitled “Workplace Violence against Health Care Workers in the United States”. The data pointed out that the health care sector is statistically among the industry’s most subject to violence in the United States. The numbers are staggering.

  • 100% of emergency department nurses reported verbal assault in the previous year
  • 82% of emergency department nurses reported physical assault in the previous year
  • 61% of home health care workers reported workplace violence annually
  • 59% of nursing home aides reported being assaulted weekly
  • 15% of nurses in a large study reported some type of workplace violence during their five most recent shifts

The characteristic most common among the perpetrators of workplace violence is altered mental status associated with dementia, delirium, substance intoxication, and decompensated mental illness. Certainly, you would think this would place jail health care in a very risky category.

Last year, Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc. had 3 reported incidents of workplace violence. This translated to approximately a 0.3% occurrence, and these incidents resulted in no time lost.

What are we doing that reduces our risk of staff injury from workplace violence?

Security comes first in the corrections environment. The purpose of a jail or correctional facility is to protect the public, all while taking care of the health care needs of the detainees they house. Security works with medical staff to ensure the safest conditions possible. Jails not only have correctional officers and/or security staff available around the clock, but they also have surveillance cameras, recording devices, secured doors, and panic buttons. Nurses working in the free community often do not know who or what is coming through their door at any moment. In the correctional setting, detainees are subject to a pat-down screening before being booked into the facility. Nurses are able to be aware of who they are seeing and are never alone with the patient.

Clearly, high security and vigilance are the best prevention of workplace violence. Our data indicates it works. Jails are safe places for health care workers.