In 2021, Inova health system, a nonprofit health care provider in Northern Virginia, reported nearly 650 incidents of workplace violence, reflecting an alarming trend in health care facilities nationwide. In response, Inova’s senior leadership crafted a comprehensive approach to address this issue through analysis of workplace violence data, the development of employee engagement strategies and a systemwide commitment to change.

“We have a workplace violence coalition team that’s comprised of frontline clinicians and staff, including myself,” says Tanveer Gaibi, M.D., Inova’s division chief of emergency medicine. “It’s a multidisciplinary team that regularly convenes to discuss how to tackle workplace violence.”

Inova introduced the Safety Always for Everyone (SAFE) Team, comprising members from nursing, medicine, behavioral health, security, chaplaincy and pharmacy. The team’s responsibilities encompass responding to and mitigating violent incidents, conducting thorough debriefs and continuously updating policies and procedures.

“We provided training to our members on Crisis Prevention Institute de-escalation techniques,” Gaibi says. This comprehensive training also was mandated for staff not belonging to the SAFE Team but at a heightened risk of experiencing workplace violence themselves, such as those working in emergency rooms. 

Central to the SAFE Team is its closed-loop resolution process that ensures the closure of incidents for all staff involved. Gaibi emphasizes the importance of teamwork like daily huddles to help prepare for the day and the forming of a specialized security team trained to work with behavioral health patients. But, according to Gaibi, the most critical factor in the team’s success is its leadership. 

“They really stepped up in the face of financial tightening everywhere and have not skimped on resources to deter violent interactions,” he says.