Workplace violence prevention: flagging practices and challenges in hospitals

Publication type
Journal article
Ferron EM, Kosny A, Tonima S
Date published
2022 Mar 01
Workplace Health & Safety
Open Access?

BACKGROUND: Flagging is a standardized way to communicate the risk of patient violence to workers. We add to the limited body of research on flagging by describing hospitals' approaches to and challenges with flagging patients with a history of violent behavior. METHODS: We used a qualitative case study approach of hospitals in Ontario, Canada and their patient flagging practices. Key informants and our advisory committee identified 11 hospitals to invite to participate. Hospitals assisted in recruiting frontline clinical and allied health workers and managers to an interview or focus group. A document analysis of hospitals' flagging policies and related documents was conducted. Thematic analysis was used to analyze interview and focus group data. FINDINGS: Five hospitals participated. Of the five hospitals, four had a flagging policy where frontline clinical workers (n = 58), frontline allied health workers (n = 31), and managers (n = 42) participated in an interview (n = 43) or focus group (n = 15). Participants described three challenges: patient stigmatization, patient privacy, and gaps in policy and procedures. CONCLUSION/APPLICATION TO PRACTICE: Flagging patients with a history of violent behavior is one intervention that hospitals use to keep workers safe. While violence prevention was important to study participants, a number of factors can affect implementation of a flagging policy. Study findings suggest that hospital leadership should mitigate patient stigmatization (real and perceived) and perception of patient rights infringement by educating all managers and frontline workers on the purpose of flagging and the relationship between occupational health and safety and privacy regulations. Leadership should also actively involve frontline workers who are the most knowledgeable about how policies work in practice