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UVM Health Network Calls for Community Action on Workplace Safety

Regional, Statewide and National Trends of Workplace Violence Demand Immediate Dialogue and Coordinated Action from Nonprofit, Government and Private Partners

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Burlington, Vt. – Amid a troubling increase in workplace violence at hospitals around the United States, with particularly acute impacts at the University of Vermont Medical Center, University of Vermont Health Network leaders announced today that they will be leading a push for area stakeholders to work together to identify solutions that will keep the people of the region safer at work and in the community.

Incidents of patients or visitors verbally or physically assaulting hospital staff have been occurring locally and nationally for months. In a recent national survey, more than 90% of health care workers reported witnessing or being subject to workplace violence over the previous month. Internal tracking of workplace violence further indicates an uptick in incidents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people nationwide faced increased stress and isolation, and found fewer supports. Increased workplace violence, and fear of violence, is not limited to hospitals, and demands immediate attention.

“Just because this has become more common does not make it acceptable,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of the UVM Medical Center. “In fact, these instances of violence against our hardworking staff are symptoms of a wider problem. It is time for our community to face this problem together.”

It is the hospital’s responsibility wherever possible to reduce risks, prevent violence and provide support when incidents occur, and UVM Medical Center teams have taken important steps to increase security and safety. This includes piloting a rapid response team that specializes in deescalating situations, installing a metal detector and seeking a professional operator, and further reviewing security and safety. The UVM Health Network is also conducting a Network-wide safety audit.

“Our security and safety teams have been working hard to improve our prevention, tracking and response capabilities, but now is the time to advocate for our staff, our patients and our community, and convene a much larger conversation with our partners, including representatives from local and state law enforcement, municipal government leaders, and other important stakeholders,” Dr. Leffler added.

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