The Critical Need for Hospital Panic Buttons

Hospitals and healthcare facilities can be unpredictable and emotionally charged environments. Doctors, nurses, staff, and administrators face immense pressure and risk in caring for vulnerable patients and families. Unfortunately, threats and violence in hospitals are on the rise across America, putting healthcare workers in harm’s way.

Installing an effective hospital panic button system is a necessary safeguard to protect staff and give them peace of mind so they can perform their jobs. We will, therefore, show you the escalating violence healthcare workers face, why hospital panic buttons are essential, and how proper panic button systems work to immediately summon help when staff feel unsafe.

A Disturbing Trend: Violence Against Healthcare Workers

Providing medical care has always involved an element of risk, but violence in hospitals has reached alarming levels.

Hospital Panic ButtonsStudies show healthcare employees are four to five times more likely to suffer workplace violence than other professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports healthcare workers suffered 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries from violence in 2018. Nurses are the most frequent victims of assault. A 2019 survey by the American Nursing Association found one in four nurses had been physically attacked at work in the prior year.

Multiple factors drive hospital violence. Patients or family members may lash out from grief over bad diagnoses, pain, long waits, confusion, or billing disputes. Hospitals face violence from the communities and problems around them – domestic violence, gang activity, addiction, and mental illness. The opioid epidemic brought a surge of desperate, unstable patients.

The Covid-19 pandemic put added strain on hospitals already nearing a breaking point. Lockdowns and restrictions fueled public frustrations. Hospitals struggled with overflowing emergency rooms, bed and staff shortages. Patients with Covid can have altered mental states. Family members were restricted from bedsides, compounding their stress. Assaults spiked – rising 139% at one Iowa hospital during the pandemic.

The Impact of Fearing Violence

Healthcare workers already carry enormous stress treating the injured and ill. Fearing patient violence takes a severe added toll on their mental health.

Surveys find up to 80% of nurses report being stressed simply by the possibility of workplace violence. The anxiety hampers their ability to focus and provide quality care. Many healthcare workers struggle with PTSD symptoms following violent incidents. Some refuse to work with dangerous patients or leave the profession altogether.

Hospitals also bear major financial costs when staff experience burnout, high turnover, leaves of absence, and injuries from assaults requiring workers compensation or lawsuits. Facilities need to invest in adequate security measures to protect and retain qualified employees. Patients suffer too if they receive subpar treatment from disengaged, frightened medical teams.

Why Panic Buttons Are Essential

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states healthcare facilities must identify hazards putting workers at risk of violence and implement preventative measures. Hospitals rely on training and response protocols, security patrols, badge access systems, metal detectors, and closed-circuit cameras as deterrents. But easily accessible personal panic buttons give staff the ultimate ability to immediately summon help when a situation turns threatening.

Panic buttons fill a critical gap when a nurse or doctor feels threatened by an escalating patient and other measures fail.

Pressing a conveniently worn or strategically placed panic button activates a duress alarm at a central security station so responders can be dispatched instantly to their exact location before violence occurs.

Panic buttons are a lifeline giving staff confidence they have backup when needed. Hospitals implementing panic buttons report dramatic decreases in assaults and improved perception of safety among employees.

Key Locations for Panic Buttons

Panic buttons should be placed strategically in hospital areas with the most frequent risk for hostile situations, while allowing for discreet use. Key locations include:

  • Emergency department registration desks – Often the first intake point for unstable patients
  • Comfort stations/nurses stations – Areas where staff may be isolated with patients
  • Waiting room check-in desks – Tensions run high over long wait times
  • Psychiatric ward stations – High risk area with unstable patients
  • Outside patient rooms – For quickly summoning backup with an unruly patient
  • Pharmacies – Robberies often target in-house pharmacies
  • Front entrance/reception – Deters intruders and threats
  • Outside restrooms – Provide safety in isolated areas

Portable Personal Panic Buttons

While fixed panic buttons in key spots provide peace of mind, hospitals can equip staff with portable, wearable panic buttons for protection anywhere on the premises. These devices are about the size of a key fob and attach to a lanyard, badge, waistband, or inside a pocket.

With the press of a button, a personal alarm instantly transmits over the airwaves to dispatch responders and pinpoint the staff member’s location through addressable technology.

Portable panic buttons ensure staff like nurses have protection even when moving between patient rooms, walking to parking areas, or offsite visiting homes.

Mobile buttons are useful in crisis response teams, weapons screening, and field clinics. The VA hospital system distributes panic buttons to thousands of staff. Other hospitals hand out personal alarms specifically to emergency and psychiatric unit staff at highest risk of violence.

Companies like JET Hotel Solutions ( provide specialized solutions for integrating panic buttons with a hospital’s existing security and WiFi infrastructure to ensure reliable operation.

Proper Technical Design

To work reliably, hospital panic buttons require a specialized wireless infrastructure tailored to challenging medical settings.

Hospitals present obstacles – big metal equipment, thick walls, and elevator shafts can interfere with signals from standard commercial wireless systems. Proper design elements include:

  • Dedicated wireless network separate from WiFi to avoid signal disruption
  • Antennas placed strategically around barriers for full, reliable coverage
  • Life safety grade components meeting UL 2572 standards for reliability
  • Enough wireless signal repeaters for redundancy
  • Battery backup on wireless repeaters and panic button devices
  • Location mapping to instantly identify where a panic button is activated
  • Integration with access control and video surveillance systems
  • Testing for signal strength throughout the premises

Effective Response Protocols

Installing panic buttons is only the first step.

Hospitals need response protocols to dispatch the right personnel quickly to the correct location when a panic alarm is received. Responders must be trained for de-escalation tactics with unstable patients and restraint methods if needed. Panic alerts generate an instant visible map and send texts with the precise room number to security officers. Alerts also notify hospital administrators and managers to coordinate and monitor the response.

Proper panic button protocols establish who receives alerts based on the location and nature of the event – security responders, supervisors, patient relations staff, psychiatrists, risk management, HR, etc.

Hospitals optimize panic button effectiveness by drilling response scenarios. Evaluating response times also helps make adjustments.

Training Staff is Key

Like any technology, panic buttons only work if used properly by trained staff. Employees need clearly defined guidelines on when to trigger their panic devices based on signs of impending violence like threats and aggressive body language.

Roleplaying helps ingrain use of the panic buttons as second nature. Staff should be taught to use restraint with the devices by not overreacting too hastily to a non-threatening situation that escalates anxiety. Updates or new hires require ongoing training.

Panic Buttons: A Wise Investment

While panic buttons involve an investment, the monetary and human costs of workplace violence are far greater.

Panic buttons provide hospital staff peace of mind and confidence they can perform their duties with support when needed. Patients benefit from the full attention of medical teams, unhindered by fear. Assaults and liability risks are reduced. Ultimately, panic buttons promote the safety of staff and everyone within a hospital’s walls.

The strain on our healthcare system requires every measure possible to protect the protectors at hospitals.

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