Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Department of Family Medicine

Posted in Research

Person: Judy Arnetz

Workplace violence towards healthcare workers is a serious occupational hazard in hospitals. Behavioral emergency response teams (BERTs), comprised of healthcare workers who have experience in managing patients with violent behavior, are one method for reducing harm to healthcare workers in hospital settings. However, risk factors for behavioral emergencies in medical settings are largely unknown.

Dr. Judy Arnetz, in collaboration with colleagues Dr. Della Derscheid and Christine Lohse at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, examined risk factors for assault and physical aggression among hospitalized patients who needed a BERT.

Study results revealed that 10% of patients who received a behavior emergency response over a 2-year period were assaultive. Physical aggression was the most significant predictor of assault and was predicted by older patient age, male gender, and verbal threats to others. Conversely, mental health conditions of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation were significant for decreased risk of assault and/or physical aggression. Contextual factors, identified as wanting to smoke or leave the hospital, were significantly associated with decreased risk of both assault and physical aggression.

Healthcare providers are encouraged to: 1) consider the demonstration of physical aggression as a sign to urgently implement precautionary measures for safety, 2) avoid predicting violent situations based on medical or mental health conditions alone, and 3) understand that not all disruptive behavior leads to violent situations. Read more.