A Missouri hospital is giving employees panic buttons to address rising attacks on healthcare workers during the pandemic

·3 min read
Healthcare workers coronavirus family
Nurse Cindy Kelbert, left, checks on a critically ill COVID-19 patient through a glass door as she is surrounded by other nurses at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif., Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo
  • A Missouri hospital reported a rise in attacks on staff by patients in 2020.

  • By the end of the year, Cox Medical Center Branson will give up to 400 employees panic buttons.

  • The panic buttons will be on their ID cards and will send a message to security for help.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A Missouri hospital is using grant money to attach panic buttons to the identification badges of its nurses and other workers after attacks on hospital staff rose last year.

By the end of this year, staff who work in the emergency room and inpatient hospital rooms at Cox Medical Center Branson will be able to use a panic button that alerts security who can then track the employee's location, the facility said in a Facebook announcement.

In their post, the facility said that assaults on staff by patients have tripled in the past year. Total assaults rose from 40 in 2019 to 123 in 2020. Total injuries rose from 17 in 2019 to 78 in 2020, the facility said.

In the Facebook post, Alan Butler, system director of Public Safety and Security, said the buttons are a critical tool to curb assaults.

"When Public Safety response is critical and it's not possible to get to a phone, person panic buttons fill a critical void," Butler said. "Personal Panic Buttons (PPBs) are one more tool in the battle to keep our staff safe and further demonstrate this organization's commitment to maintaining a safe work and care environment."

Ashley Blevins, a nurse at the hospital, told KYTV that she's been "spit on, cussed out," and even beaten by patients in the last year.

"It's nice we have the chance to press our button and security knows exactly where we are and if we end up having to chase a patient down they'll know where our last location is," Blevins told KYTV.

The Facebook post said the hospital system tested out similar buttons at their Springfield, Missouri, hospital.

An April report in JAMA found that violence against healthcare workers has been on the rise for at least the past decade. In November 2020, a survey by the National Nurses United found that about 20% of 15,000 respondents said they dealt with increased violence on the job.

The nurses attributed the rise of violence to "decreasing staffing levels, changes in the patient population, and visitor restrictions."

Cox Medical Center Branson is also having the distress calls display on the hospital's nurse call system, so when an employee is being assaulted in a room, the outside of the room will light up and a custom tone will ring at designated nurse call consoles.

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