AWARE: A Technology-Driven Framework for Promoting a Safer Care Environment

Katherine Virkstis, ND, VP, Clinical Advisory Services

The increase of violent incidents against healthcare workers, particularly nurses, has become a critical concern. Recent data from a 2023 survey by Premier, Inc. and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), paints a worrying picture: a staggering 40% of healthcare workers have encountered workplace violence in the past two years. Alarmingly, over half of these confrontations originated from patients themselves.1 Bedside nurses are especially vulnerable, with 60% of them being affected by such incidents. The prevalence of this issue highlights an urgent need for effective solutions to promote a safer care environment.

Violence in healthcare settings presents a unique challenge. Unlike other professional environments, healthcare staff must continue caring for patients who demonstrate aggressive or threatening behavior. The creation of a safe and secure work environment is not just a matter of policy; it’s a necessity for the well-being of both healthcare workers and patients. Addressing this requires a multifaceted approach.

A Path Forward: The AWARE Framework

Developed by clinical leaders at Get Well with the complexities of healthcare settings in mind, the AWARE Framework is a comprehensive strategy designed to be used with Get Well‘s digital solutions. The framework equips healthcare leaders with digital strategies to raise Awareness, identify early Warning signs to prevent escalation, Activate an immediate response, prompt Real-time emotional support, and Evaluate data to mitigate future risk. In collaboration with Get Well’s technology, this framework is designed to empower healthcare leaders and workers to effectively address and mitigate the risks of workplace violence.

Awareness: A Critical First Step

Leaders must explicitly reject the common misperception among patient care teams that violence and safety threats are “just part of the job.” To create a safer care environment, healthcare organizations must raise awareness among everyone involved, from patients and visitors to care teams and leadership. The key to this are widespread public awareness initiatives, comprehensive education and training for staff, and effective reporting systems.

Get Well’s Point of Care Engagement solution can help raise awareness through multiple channels: 

  • Screensavers serve as a visual reminder to staff and visitors about safety protocols and the importance of a violence-free environment. 
  • Scheduled prompts provide timely and regular messages that reinforce safety guidelines and encourage vigilance among staff. 
  • Pledge campaigns actively engage patients in committing to a culture of respect and safety, fostering a collective responsibility towards maintaining a peaceful and secure care environment.
  • The integration of dashboards enhances transparency of incidents and safety concerns. These dashboards provide leaders with a clear view of trends and patterns, empowering leaders to make informed decisions and implement strategies to reduce the likelihood of future incidents.

Warning Signs: Early Detection for Prevention

Incidents of aggression or violence in healthcare settings are typically preceded by subtle warning signs. The ability to recognize these early indicators is crucial. Equally important is empowering healthcare workers with the knowledge and authority to act upon these signs. Timely and appropriate intervention can effectively prevent the escalation of aggressive or violent behaviors, maintaining a safer environment for both patients and healthcare professionals.

Get Well offers a suite of technologies designed to identify and respond to early warning signs of aggression or violence in healthcare settings: 

  • Our rounding tool enables healthcare workers to systematically check in on patients, ensuring their needs are met while also observing any potential warning signs.
  • Customized surveys allow for the collection of specific information that can indicate risks or concerns from both patients and staff. 
  • Signal, a tablet positioned outside patient rooms, plays a crucial role by displaying known warning signs, such as a patient’s history of violent behavior, alerting care providers to potential risks. 
  • Get Well provides tools for distraction and relaxation, which are particularly effective for patients with cognitive impairments, a notable risk factor for aggression. These tools, which include videos and interactive content, help in calming patients and reducing the likelihood of violent incidents, thereby contributing to a safer healthcare environment.

Active Response: Rapid and Effective Action

Security staff typically concentrate on securing the facility, involving monitoring doors, locks, staircases, and surveillance equipment. Consequently, their response to immediate safety threats at the point of care can be delayed. It’s crucial to shorten the response time in instances of violence to effectively minimize the potential for harm.

Get Well‘s technologies can help improve the response time to security threats within healthcare facilities: 

  • Get Well’s one-touch notification allows immediate alerts to be sent across a unit, floor, or entire facility in emergency situations, such as an active shooter scenario. This system can be fully customized, ensuring rapid dissemination of crucial information. 
  • Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) offer precise location tracking of caregivers at all times. Wearable badges can complement this system by enabling staff to silently call for help with just a single touch, providing an added layer of security. 
  • Get Well’s rounding technology plays a key role in empowering all staff members to anticipate and respond more swiftly to incidents. By enhancing situational awareness and communication, this tool improves overall response times, contributing to a safer environment for both staff and patients.

Real-time Emotional Support: Prioritizing Caregiver Well-being

Real-time emotional support is essential for care team members, regardless of whether an incident has occurred or not. This support is crucial for those who feel unsafe, stressed, or anxious in their work environment.

Get Well’s technologies offer real-time emotional support to healthcare staff, particularly in high-stress environments.

  • The Self Care Loop, designed for nurses by nurses, is an innovative tool that aids in stress reduction. It provides resources for practicing self-care skills, accessing relaxation content, and interacting with virtual navigators, all tailored to the unique needs of healthcare professionals. 
  • Get Well offers a quick surveillance tool for psychological first aid, which acts as a proactive check-in system. This tool helps in promptly identifying staff members who may need additional support, facilitating timely intervention and connection to further resources. It also plays a crucial role in identifying information that can mitigate risk and stressors in the workplace. 

These technologies collectively contribute to a supportive and healthier work environment, prioritizing the well-being of caregivers.

Evaluate: Mitigating Future Risk

An essential component of any plan to prevent incivility and violence includes systems that gather and examine data. This enables the identification of patterns and areas of risk, allowing for proactive measures to avert potential incidents.

  • Get Well’s rounding technology can help streamline the data collection process during patient interactions, capturing relevant information that can be analyzed for signs of escalating tensions or potential risks. 
  • Our rounding tool can also ease timely reporting of hazards and near misses. This quick and precise logging of information is vital for maintaining a current and comprehensive understanding of the safety environment. 

The AWARE Framework, paired with Get Well’s innovative technologies, offers a new paradigm in tackling the issue of workplace violence in healthcare. This approach paves the way for a safer, more secure healthcare environment. Together, we’re not just responding to violence; we’re preventing it.

Get Well is committed to partnering with you in the pursuit of reducing violence and creating safer healthcare environments for all. To learn more about how the AWARE Framework and Get Well’s solutions can support healthcare safety, contact us here.

1Saha S, Ingram M.Premier Survey Reveals Key Insights on Workplace Violence Incidents in Healthcare. Charlotte, NC: Premier Inc.; 2023. Accessed November 5, 2023.