Surprising Dangers in Medical Practices

Medical Workers at More Risk for Workplace Violence
Author: Mike Manere, CHC, CHSP, Principal

Dec 7, 2021 | OSHA

Being a medical professional comes with some obvious assumed risks. First and foremost is the daily exposure to sick patients, many of whom are contagious. Then there are airborne and blood-borne pathogens often present in medical settings. Dangerous bacteria and funguses become stronger all the time. But many people are surprised to learn that becoming a victim of violence is a significant risk for physicians and staff in healthcare.

Statistics show that healthcare workers and office staff are at a flash point for physical aggression, psychological abuse, and harassment, usually from patients frustrated or angry with the health care system. OSHA reported that 75% of all workplace violence incidents between 2011 and 2013 occurred in healthcare settings. Triggers range from delays in appointments, and misunderstandings about co-pays, referrals, pre-authorizations, to more serious disputes over access to drugs particularly, opioids or other pain medications.

Even though physician practices are first and foremost places of prevention and healing, the various frustrations that patients feel with access to care and other stressors are causing brittleness that too often boils over into dangerous situations and violence.

Recognizing the increase in workplace violence across the board, the government has increased regulations on workplace safety. As early as 1970 OSHA mandated that employers have a “General Duty” to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. But more recently OSHA has focused on standards of violence in healthcare and social service organizations. Their 2016 request for information on violence in those settings may be the foundation for further workplace violence prevention laws.

Having a plan and educating staff can help healthcare organizations to mitigate risk of violence in their workplace. HealthCare Compliance Network has a well-established program of planning, training, and education to help practices develop the behaviors for workplace safety, and regulatory compliance surrounding that issue. Our process includes things like:

  • recognizing the escalation of anger and aggression.
  • recognizing the tigers of violence.
  • reacting quickly when signs of violence occur, such as,
    • evacuating the area,
    • getting help,
    • de-escalating, and
  • calling 911.
  • reacting when law enforcement arrives.

More information on strategies and process to keep medical practices safe and secure is available on our website at If you would like to talk to an HCN representative to discuss a customized Management of Angry Patients™ program for your practice call us at (855) 526-6754, extension 2, or email us at