Facing the Facts

Lesson 4: Topic 10 of 14

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One spring I had to face the fact that my employer did not have that commitment to employees. The owners of a long term care facility which I ran decided to specialize in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) care. They brought on board a Medical Director with extensive experience in TBI care and told the marketing team to begin admitting these patients. No other prep work was undertaken. The very first TBI patient who came to the community was placed in the secured Dementia unit. And within minutes of arrival he went berserk. The nurses in the secured unit frantically screamed for help as he rampaged, yelling and smashing everything he could. All the other occupants there were easily twice his age, frail, many of them wanderers. First responders were called but they were several minutes away, so I had no choice but to intervene. My attempts to de-escalate the situation were no use. This was a physically healthy young man, about 100 pounds heavier than I, and a good three inches taller ― he looked like a linebacker ― and he tried to kill me. 

He and I both wound up in the hospital. After returning to work a few days later, I began rejecting all TBI patients the marketers sent my way. The owners told me I couldn’t do that; I responded by telling them the staff were terrified, some had already quit and others were threatening to do so. They agreed to come personally and reassure the staff. They told everyone that what had happened to me was “a once in a career, once in a lifetime event.” They promised it would never happen again. But precisely four weeks later the same thing occurred between another patient and another employee. Since I could neither protect my staff nor myself, and could not trust my employers to do so, I felt I had no choice but to quit. 

The point of relating this illustration is to reiterate that combating workplace violence is a team effort. Everyone ― from the owners to the leaders to the front line staff ― has to be involved. A halfhearted effort or token response will wind up costing more than anyone would want to pay. If your efforts to convince the people who work for you and the people you work for to address this issue, but they won’t, you may have no choice but to leave. 

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On a more positive note, by practicing engaging staff proactively, working with them collaboratively, affirming them as individuals, and monitoring for potential troublesome issues, you just might prevent these kinds of problems from ever occurring.