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Wilmington 302-427-9500 Bear 302-834-8484 Milford 302-422-6705 Lewes 302-550-0155

Mental Health Care Workplace Violence

Delaware Work Injury Lawyers discuss workplace violence in the mental health care field. Workplace violence is more common in the healthcare industry than in any other. In fact, three-quarters of all workplace assaults occur there. The most common area for workplace violence in the healthcare industry involves care of psychiatric patients.

Nearly 20 percent of patients admitted to an acute care psychiatric unit will commit an act of violence.

Managing Mental Health Patients

Many psychiatric patients that require inpatient (acute) care are in a state of crisis. They generally lack full command of their mental processes and behavior. They may have stopped taking prescribed drugs, which can lead to symptoms of altered states of consciousness, such as hallucinations, mania, and paranoia.

These patients are often fearful, angry, or confused. Healthcare workers are familiar with the medical conditions of such patients. But they are still faced with unpredictable behavior on a regular basis, and this behavior often includes acts of violence against the healthcare worker. Further, addiction to or withdrawal from illicit drugs often exacerbates the situation.

Providing Effective Security

In addition to having behavioral issues, some patients bring contraband like lighters or weapons into facilities, or visitors may bring these items to the patient. Dealing with contraband is not a simple matter. Security at healthcare facilities varies from place to place.

Passive systems such as cameras and access controls are often used in combination with walk-through metal detectors, uniformed security guards, and trained intake staff. However, it is still possible for a patient or visitor to smuggle in contraband, which could include razor blades or other difficult to detect dangerous items.

Additional security precautions can include manual searches such as pat-downs or hand-held wand searches. These methods have many disadvantages. They are intrusive and can trigger anxiety in patients, which can increase the chance of a violent outburst. In addition, a study published in Medicine, Science, and the Law, found only five percent of prohibited items were detected using these methods.

A New Tool to Prevent Violence

There is a need to balance workplace security with providing a calming and therapeutic environment.  A new screening practice may be a good solution. Passive sensors of magnetic fields called ferromagnetic detection systems (FMDS) can detect a metal signature of an item – no matter how small.

Any magnetic material moving through the detection zone can be found, even a pin swallowed by a patient. Since the device only detects magnetic material, no attempts to conceal items can prevent detection. FMDS devices are portable, run on batteries, and are easy to use.

The FMDS system has many advantages. It screens passively and quickly. A patient’s personal space is not invaded by active search methods. Staff can screen from a safe distance and call for backup if necessary.

Both healthcare workers and their patients could be better served by employing this new technology. Additionally, reducing personal injury and Workers’ Compensation claims are an added benefit.

Delaware Work Injury Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Help Victims of Workplace Violence

If you or someone you know has been the victim of workplace violence, or otherwise been injured at work, contact an experienced Delaware work injury lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow. Call 302-427-9500 or 302-834-8484 or complete an online form to schedule a free initial consultation. We serve clients throughout the state of Delaware, including Elsmere and Seaford, with offices conveniently located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford.

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