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OAHHS Helps Make Oregon a National Leader in Workplace Violence Prevention

Oregon has become a national leader in the effort to prevent workplace violence in health care settings.

First, Oregon hospitals created the Workplace Violence Prevention Toolkit to create a comprehensive set of resources for employee safety. It’s a roadmap to guide hospitals in keeping staff from becoming victims of violence while they care for patients. Oregon hospitals are using the toolkit, which was created in partnership with the Oregon Nurses Association, SEIU Local 49, and the Oregon Medical Association.

Hospitals also supported SB 823, which ensures that hospitals are checking their security systems every two years. It also directs hospitals to use a validated resource, like the Workplace Violence Prevention toolkit.

Now other states are looking at the Oregon model. The National Quality Forum is an influential nonprofit promoting health care safety and quality. The group is meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. Workplace violence prevention is on the agenda, and leaders are using Oregon’s expertise to develop national recommendations.

Since most of the violence happens when patients injure staff, the toolkit helps hospitals evaluate a patient’s risk for violence and other risk factors.  

Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande has embraced the toolkit and seen the results. There’s now a fortified glass window at the emergency department intake desk, doors that lock nights and weekends, and more security personnel. Facilities director Elaine LaRochelle says staff has noticed. “In the past, we've had staff quit, saying 'I'm tired of getting beat up. I wanted to be a nurse, not a combat vet,'" she said, adding that the staff feels heard. Morale has improved.

LaRochelle says Grande Ronde had been working to do more to prevent workplace violence for years but needed the right tool to do it.

That tool is being shared beyond Oregon. Over 150 hospitals, 10 hospital associations, and seven other organizations have asked to use it, and that number is likely to grow.

“Hospital employees sacrifice so much to do a difficult job and care for people, some of whom are in deep distress,” said Katie Harris, policy director at the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems. “We owe it to these caregivers to do all we can to make sure they out of harm’s way on the job.”

To see the toolkit and read more about the OAHHS Workplace Safety Initiative, visit oahhs.org/safety.