"Small hospitals are not immune to newsworthy/cringe-worthy stories. Protecting and keeping our staff safe was a huge and growing concern but we have been able to combat a lot of our worries thanks to panic buttons from Midwest Alarm Services."
-Matt Olson, Plant Operations Manager at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center
"It’s hard to be in health care right now," said Cynthia Kelleher, Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, where patients include those just off ventilators for COVID-19. "It’s even harder if you feel threatened at your job."
If you work in health care or know someone who does, this statement probably hits home. According to the Mayo Clinic c/o Bloomberg, "The rate of violent incidents more than doubled during the pandemic to 2.53 per 1,000 visits compared with 1.13 in the three months before the pandemic and there’s a positive association between the case rate and the rate of violence."
And, it’s certainly not just hospitals taking the hit. "There’s been an increase in harassment of workers in groceries, restaurants, and airlines during the pandemic. But critically ill COVID patients in hospitals are a particularly explosive situation," said Martin McGahan, who co-heads Alvarez & Marsal’s health-care turnaround practice.
These incidents are, in part, to blame for the rise in turnover and expenses. That’s why U.S. hospitals are requesting billions in federal safety funds which would be used toward panic buttons among other things (lighting, locks, and security training, to name a few others).
Protecting America’s already burnt-out staff is paramount. Health care workers who have been hit, shoved, kicked, and spit on report that COVID has made things worse.
Sanford Sheldon Medical Center’s Matt Olson, a Midwest Alarm Service customer, reports his experience.
In a small hospital in small-town Iowa, the night shift can be a little scary, especially when working with a smaller crew. After a recent incident of patient violence toward the night nurses, Matt Olson, Plant Operations Manager, knew something had to be done.
"They had no form of protection so it was then that I knew the night nurses needed a way to contact the police quickly and discreetly," he said.
He swiftly contacted his Midwest Alarm Services rep who’d previously helped him with fire alarm inspections and was soon saying yes to a panic button.
"The panic button immediately gave our mostly female staff a sense of confidence and security. I spoke to the local police to assure them that we would only use it if someone’s life was in danger and they have responded favorably to that," he said.
Upon first use after installation, Matt didn’t predict that it would be used to protect not his staff but a patient’s life. When a self-harming patient unexpectedly ran out of the hospital, they were worried he was a threat to himself or possibly others.
"My staff was concerned for his life so some of them followed him outside to see where he went (so they could direct the authorities) while another employee pressed the panic button," Matt recalled.
The police were able to arrive on the scene in a timely fashion, quickly discuss his approximate whereabouts with the nurses and find him within a block or two of the hospital. They brought the runaway patient back to the hospital.
Another panic button instance illustrates the need for discretion when calling the police. Patients can become more aggravated if they know you’re placing the call to 911. When a uniformed police officer brought a threatening patient in for treatment, he stayed until he felt it safe to leave. While there together, which spanned over several hours, the patient was very calm and cooperative. Everyone agreed it was okay for the officer to leave the patient alone with the staff. But, as soon as the officer was out of sight, the patient became combative and unruly. Thanks to their panic button (unbeknownst to the upset patient), the police officer returned quickly.
"This is one of those cases where the patient’s anger would have likely escalated had he known the nurses were calling the police to come back so we were thankful for the discretion of a panic button," Matt reported.
There have been three total incidents at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center in the past two years. All have come from the ER even though Matt has supplied several other departments with panic buttons (front hospital nurse’s station, ER admissions desk, the ER itself (located centrally and very accessibly in the hallway), the clinic, and the senior care facility.
"Small hospitals are not immune to newsworthy/cringe-worthy, danger-inducing stories. Protecting and keeping our staff safe was a huge and growing concern but we have been able to squall a lot of our worries thanks to panic buttons from Midwest Alarm Services," Matt said.
Matt conducts annual safety training with his entire staff and keeps in touch with the local authorities on expectations. It has worked very well for Sanford Sheldon Medical Center. If you would like to know more about installing panic buttons in your hospital, please contact us.