Emergency departments are one of the most, if not the most, dangerous departments in modern-day hospitals. Emergency department staff are tasked with caring for people in a variety of different situations, from drug overdoses to cases of extreme violence. With workplace violence rates rising in hospitals and emergency departments, hospitals are thinking proactively about how to best protect employees.

To improve healthcare workplace safety, it’s helpful to first recognize the factors that make emergency departments particularly dangerous. Next, identify the potential ways to make the department a safer place.

What makes emergency departments dangerous?

Almost half of emergency room doctors report being the victim of physical assaults on the job, and 70% of E.R. nurses report being hit or kicked at work. Alarmingly, 70% of emergency doctors feel violence and other threats in the emergency department are increasing in frequency. There are a few factors contributing to this environment.

Drug and alcohol addiction

Patients with addiction are seen in large numbers across the country’s emergency departments. Often, these patients can teeter between life-threatening overdoses and attempts to get more of a substance. Many patients will act out in anger or violence while under the influence.

Mental health

Patients who come to the emergency department with a mental health concern could be a threat to themselves and those around them. Mental health cases range from suicidal to violently psychotic, requiring attentive care in a sometimes hectic or under-staffed environment. 

Post-Arrest Patients

Emergency departments also sometimes see patients who have been arrested, but are injured.  In this scenario, the patients are sent to the emergency department to be medically cleared before they go to jail, putting emergency personnel at potential risk.


It’s easier than ever before for someone to be followed and threatened over the internet. Patients could find out where their caretaker lives or even find their family’s location with a few personal details. Even something simple like giving the patient access to the staff’s full name, which is often on their employee ID, could invite cyberstalking. 

Working late hours

Emergency room staff, like many medical staff members, are expected to work long hour shifts at odd hours of the day and night. Late hours and understaffing increase the risk for these emergency department employees. 

How can hospitals make the emergency department safer?

A Well-trained Security Team

Hospitals can do more to protect employees by adding more security measures into their facility. Not only can you physically staff your facility with security personnel, but you can also give them adequate tools and training to confidently do their jobs. Consider mandatory and on-going training on how to de-escalate a potentially violent situation.

Panic Button Technology

Consider an employee safety platform, such as React Mobile by PDC, to support your security team’s rapid emergency response. React Mobile puts panic buttons in the hands of your staff. When the panic button is pressed, your security personnel is alerted to the precise location of the emergency within seconds. 

Access Control & Visitor Management 

Access control and effective visitor management can help protect hospital staff. Access control software and systems can limit access to more restricted areas in the hospital. Visitor management protocols ensure you know who is on site at all times, and helps ensure they’re properly identified and monitored. 

Proper Reporting and Record Keeping

Workplace violence in healthcare numbers are likely greater than what we know because of a lack of reporting. More than two-thirds of emergency department staff admit they have not reported violent incidents that happened in the ED. The lack or reporting prevents organizations from knowing the full scope of the problem, its causes, and possible solutions. It’s a huge barrier in coming up with ways to prevent and react to workplace violence. 

Give Emergency Staff Anonymity

In an effort to protect the identities of employees, consider removing last names from employee badges if it isn’t legally required to be visible. This reduces the chance of patients being able to stalk staff online. New legislation, such as a bill in Pennsylvania, proposes to remove the requirement of having last names on employee badges. If you aren’t ready to rebadge your employees completely, you could use a label to cover the last names. 


Learn more about healthcare employee safety by connecting with a PDC expert. 

Addressing Workplace Violence in Emergency Departments: Contributing Factors and Solutions
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Addressing Workplace Violence in Emergency Departments: Contributing Factors and Solutions
What makes emergency departments dangerous for employees? We'll address some of the contributing factors and some proactive solutions to help keep ED healthcare employees safe.
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