Missouri hospital to give staff panic buttons to protect them from violent patients

Missouri hospital to give staff panic buttons to protect them from violent patients
·3 min read

A Missouri hospital will be equipping its staff with panic buttons to protect them from violent patients following a startling rise in assaults, administrators said.

Cox Medical Center Branson, located about 44 miles from Springfield, said it was implementing the added protection after violent assaults by patients tripled in the last year. According to hospital data, total assaults rose from 40 to 123 and total injuries climbed from 17 to 78.

Assaults leading to injury increased from 42.5 percent to 63 percent, according to officials.

“When Public Safety response is critical and it’s not possible to get to a phone, person panic buttons fill a critical void,” said Alan Butler, who oversees public safety efforts at CoxHealth’s six hospitals and more than 80 clinics.

“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.”

The hospital first began using panic buttons last year in certain areas at Cox South due to incidents of workplace violence. The hospital will now expand the program to hundreds of employees at Cox Medical Center Branson.

Nurse Ashley Blevins told NBC affiliate KYTV of Springfield that in the last year staff has been spit on, verbally harassed, and, in some cases, attacked.

“Working in the emergency department, a lot of times our patients are becoming increasingly violent lately,” she said. “So it’s nice that 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 know where our last location is.”

Blevins said she thinks the Covid-19 pandemic and hospitals being overwhelmed has played a part in the increase in assaults.

“They come in here and then they have to sit in here because everywhere’s full," she said about the patients. "We have no placements to put anybody and that’s just frustrating on the patients, it’s frustrating on us. I think that’s increasing a lot of violence. “

The panic buttons were financially backed by the Skaggs Foundation, a charity in Branson. The foundation awarded the hospital a grant of more than $132,000.

Skaggs Legacy Endowment Grant Committee Chairman Nita Jane Ayres said backing the program was a no-brainer.

“This project protects our No. 1 resource – our health care workers,” Ayres said in a statement. “Our health care workers already sacrifice so much but their safety should never be sacrificed.”

The foundation said the money will help roughly 400 workers in the emergency room and inpatient rooms receive a panic button on their badge. When the button is pressed, a personal tracing system will be activated and security is notified. A pop-up alert will also appear on hospital computers which shows the worker's exact location using a wireless system throughout the hospital.

The tracing system will be updated if the employee moves after pushing the button, the foundation said.

Cox Medical Center Branson plans to begin using the panic buttons by the end of the year.

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