Safety and violence prevention in patient care

Resources empower staff with awareness, skills and tools

By Nacuya Lewis, Kim Rose

Health care workers often face stressful and emotionally charged situations when interacting with patients, families and visitors. People facing a health concern or crisis can experience a multitude of difficult feelings when seeking help, from mild worry to anxiety or sadness, fear and possibly denial or anger. This can put our faculty, staff, residents and volunteers at risk for facing confrontational or outright hostile behaviors while providing service.

Just as our patients’ well-being is a top priority, so is the safety and protection of our workers. We have detailed workplace guidelines that help ensure appropriate and safe behaviors among staff. Likewise, we have guidelines for how to manage inappropriate patient behaviors as well as patient-centered practices, professional training and hospitality and service standards to help guide us with patients and their loved ones.

The key is our ability to identify red-flag or escalating behaviors and address them in the best and safest way to prevent altercations and reduce risk and harm. Sometimes being compassionate, helpful and constructive is not enough. That’s why resources are available to help staff build awareness and skills and new tools exist to help protect our workers when they face possibly hostile or threatening interactions.

Please take advantage of these options to support our workers at UF Health Shands, UF Health Physicians and the UF College of Medicine.


The Violence Prevention Task Force is a multidisciplinary team that works to identify staff concerns about personal safety, which are then used to develop and implement solutions to address identified issues throughout UF Health. One of the task force’s most recent endeavors is the development of UF Health Protect — UF Health’s first safety app.


UF Health Protect is a free personal safety app that will enable staff to quickly connect with emergency services, send your location to a friend, sound a loud alarm, report a tip, track shuttles and more. Search “UF Health Protect” on any mobile app store. It can be accessed on Apple, Android or other platforms. Wherever you go, UF Health Protect is there to help you stay safe.


Crisis Prevention Institute, or CPI, and Crisis Development and Nonviolent De-escalation training has equipped more than 500 UF Health Shands nurses with the skills to manage behavioral situations that may occur during patient treatment. After completing these courses, our nurses are better able to protect themselves, communicate effectively, manage scenarios and recognize escalating behaviors. The training is optional and available through myTraining — located in the Employee Services tab on the Bridge.


UF Health Shands Human Resources Development encourages clinical staff to enroll in the Dealing with Difficult Patient and Family Situations course. This two-hour program helps improve the skills and comfort level of nurses and other direct care providers to handle difficult and challenging situations involving patients and visitors.


The UF Health Physicians outpatient practice leaders are also focused on empowering frontline employees, patient care support staff and clinicians when it comes to personal safety. Each outpatient practice is a cohesive unit, so teamwork and communication are crucial elements in personal safety and violence prevention within each individual practice location. Tools and resources to help staff identify and deescalate difficult behaviors when interacting with patients and visitors are currently in development by UF Health Physicians Administration.


UF Health locations that are considered to be high risk — based on criteria set through the hospital Security Risk Assessment — are equipped with panic alarms that silently contact a security dispatcher, who sends all available security officers to the location. A security officer can be reached via UF Health main campus phones by dialing ext. 50911.