A nurse is leaving the skilled nursing facility (SNF) where she is employed. She’s met in the parking lot by her angry husband who is facing the custody loss of his children in a divorce. He shoots his wife in front of her co-workers and residents.
At another SNF, an intoxicated boyfriend shows up and attacks his girlfriend, an employee, in the parking lot, accusing her of cheating on him with a co-worker.
I wish I could tell you that these are scenes from a fictitious television series, but they aren’t. These are real incidents that occurred at real long-term care facilities against real staff members. And these are just a few of the many incidents we are aware of.
Domestic violence is quickly becoming a major concern for healthcare professionals. More and more, abusive spouses/partners are showing up at the healthcare facility, knowing that access is easy, usually unrestricted and sometimes not monitored by video security. This ease of access combined with the element of surprise often gives them the upper hand. And these events are not only a threat to the target employee, they also place every employee and resident at risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The Department of Labor reports that victims of domestic violence lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the United States, resulting in a $1.8 billion loss in productivity for employers. The CDC also reported that an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
Yet, 65 percent of companies don’t have a formal workplace domestic violence prevention policy, according to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management(SHRM), and only 20 percent offer training on domestic violence.
In my consulting visits, I find myself auditing client safety policies as a matter of routine service. I have been encouraged to see many long-term care facilities and communities developing written workplace violence prevention programs. Yet, few of them have recognized the risk of domestic violence in the workplace, and even fewer have addressed it as a matter of policy or practice.
Domestic violence can no longer be considered a “family matter.” It is a workplace vulnerability that must be addressed the same as any other risk or vulnerability to the business and its employees and residents. And, like most all programs, it starts with a written policy. Some companies choose to develop stand-alone written programs addressing domestic violence, while others incorporate domestic violence as a sub-section of a greater workplace violence prevention plan.
All policies about domestic violence at the workplace should include: