Data-Driven Approach May Reduce Violence to Hospital Workers


Elk Grove Village, IL ( - A worksite intervention using unit-level data on violent events can lead to lower risks of patient-to-worker violence and injury to hospital staff, suggests a study in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Judith Arnetz, PhD, MPH, PT, of Michigan State University and colleagues designed an intervention to assess and prevent violence and related injuries to hospital workers. Forty-one units in a Midwestern hospital system were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. Intervention units received unit-level data on violent events and injuries, for use in developing their own action plans for violence prevention. Control units received no data.

Six months later, the rate of violent events was about 50 percent lower on hospital units that received the study intervention, compared to control units. At two years, the risk of violence-related injury was nearly 60 percent lower on intervention units. Violent events seemed to provide “early warning” of a risk for injuries.

The differences did not reflect lower rates of violence and injury on the intervention units. Rather, these units avoided the increases in violence seen on control units. During the study period (2010 to 2015), violence rates at US hospitals increased significantly.

Violence from patients is a significant occupational hazard for hospital employees. The study intervention was designed as a data-driven approach to assessing and lowering the risk of patient-to-worker violence and injuries. “This approach standardizes violence surveillance and risk analysis, but gives hospital units the flexibility and autonomy to use their own data to drive the violence prevention process,” the researchers write.

Units participating in the intervention were able to avoid the trend toward increased violent events and injuries occurring in control units and at hospitals nationwide. Dr. Arnetz and colleagues believe their approach to workplace violence and monitoring, risk assessment, and intervention “could be standardized and translated to hospital systems nationwide to improve worker health and safety.”

Citation — Arnetz JE, Hamblin L, Russell J. Preventing patient-to-worker violence in hospitals: outcome of a randomized controlled intervention. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(1):18-27.

About ACOEM — ACOEM (, an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting. 


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