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Message to Community

Kim Uphoff, President and CEO of Sarah Bush Lincoln
Kim Uphoff, President & CEO

Workplace violence is a term we hear often in the news, and we would all like to think that it doesn’t happen in the healthcare industry. The sad fact is that workplace violence injuries are five times more likely to occur in healthcare than other workplaces. Our community is no different. Sarah Bush Lincoln, along with other area hospitals, has been dealing with escalating violence in the form of verbal assaults, physical altercations and external threats for several years.

To best protect our staff, patients and guests, we have taken steps to mitigate and de-escalate violence. Keeping our employees and patients safe is a priority and one we take seriously.  

We work closely with our community’s law enforcement agencies which readily assist us. Their presence is intended to help employees, patients and guests feel safer and handle safety issues more quickly. We appreciate all the help we receive.

Sarah Bush Lincoln employs security officers, who are present at the Health Center for all shifts, seven days a week, and are now stationed in the Emergency Room and available to respond to other areas when needed. Officers make routine checks on all the main campus buildings and staff know how to reach them quickly. Our security officers are trained and well-versed in de-escalation techniques. In the event efforts to de-escalate a situation have failed, our security officers are equipped with tasers and will use them if the situation warrants, to protect our patients, their families, and our employees. Thankfully, they have not had to use them.

Much of the Health Center and campus are under camera surveillance. Response buttons are placed in many patient care areas throughout the Health Center so that employees can signal for immediate assistance when needed. Every employee has received training from AVADE, which is the nation’s leader in workplace violence prevention training, while those in more visible positions receive additional levels of training. Signage is being placed throughout the main campus and all the extended campus locations that says there is zero tolerance for violence against our employees and that aggravated battery is a class 3 felony. Violators will be arrested and tried in a court of law.

We take the threat of violence seriously. A few weeks ago, we locked down our campus because a former patient threatened to return to SBL and hurt people. Two weeks ago Sarah Bush Lincoln leaders approved a Lock Down policy which will be practiced by staff in a drill situation in the coming weeks and used as necessary. In the event of a lock down, large signage will be placed on entrances, advising visitors of the situation and directing them to return to their vehicles or to report to the ER in the event of life-threatening illnesses.

We are surveying our staff on employee engagement and safety issues. I routinely walk around the Health Center and talk with front-line staff members to share our efforts and ask them what else we could do to help them feel safe. Last year we launched a workplace violence committee which is comprised of employees and leaders who meet routinely to evaluate and recommend ways to increase safety on our campus. The interdisciplinary team focuses on strategies to identify potentially aggressive or violent behavior before it escalates and reviews best practices for effective responses to these incidents.

Sarah Bush Lincoln has a strong culture of safety, which focuses on developing a high-reliability of care, and creating a safe environment for patients and employees. Each morning, leaders gather together to report any safety concerns and share pertinent information throughout the organization to enhance our culture of safety.

Lastly, we are advocating for legislative change. We are working with the Illinois Hospital Association to enact legislation that ensures violence against healthcare workers carry a stronger penalty. My final message is that violence of any kind will not be tolerated or excused at SBL. It will not deter us from delivering on our mission, which is to provide exceptional care to all and to create healthy communities.

It is a privilege to care for this community. Thank you for your strong support of Sarah Bush Lincoln and our workforce as we continue to provide trusted, compassionate care to those in need.