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Harmful words and actions will not be tolerated

12 Feb 2023

“Just part of the job" is no more, no longer

By: Cheryl Nester Wolfe, President and CEO

The message similar to the following was emailed to all Salem Health Staff from President and CEO Cheryl Nester Wolfe on Wednesday, Feb. 8. We feel the importance of sharing it with all providers as well.

No patient, employee or provider harm is acceptable to us.

I have been a registered nurse for more than 50 years, so I understand the commitment and culture of healing and caring among health care staff and providers. This often results in a belief that the patient’s or other’s rights outweigh the individual care provider’s rights. This is absolutely false. You deserve to be treated respectfully by colleagues, staff, patients and visitors. For too long, many in the field of health care have considered acts ranging from disrespect to violent assault to be simply “part of the job.” At Salem Health, these behaviors are never, ever acceptable. We intentionally added “employee” and “provider” harm to our statement because Salem Health is committed to supporting your personal safety and emotional well-being. Everyone has a right to feel and be safe at work, and any harmful words or actions have no place at Salem Health.

I want you to know that you are empowered to stop the line if you experience harmful words and actions from anyone.

In the last year, Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics saw a 38% increase in reported workplace violence incidents over 2021. Of these, 85% are patient or visitor to staff/provider. I heard repeatedly in town halls, as did Sarah Horn, Chief Nursing Officer, that this is a major problem for our valued colleagues. Harmful words and actions undermine the resiliency of the entire health care team. Not only can they cause physical and psychological injury for health care workers, they make it harder to provide high-quality patient care. You cannot be expected to provide attentive care when you are afraid for your personal safety, distracted or disrespected by disruptive patients or others, or traumatized from violent interactions.

In the next month, all employees and providers will complete HealthStream training covering how to report harmful words and actions, as well as ways to address them in the moment and resources for follow-up. This new system is the result of a three-month test of change and a lot of hard work from your colleagues and fellow care givers. I encourage you to take advantage of it. Unless we make the problem visible, we cannot begin to address it. I expect reporting to increase and leaders to address the issues in their departments. We are past a time when putting up with these behaviors was just part of the job.

It is my commitment to you that unacceptable behavior will be addressed in a timely manner and individuals responsible for this behavior will be held accountable. Our employees and providers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just as we treat patients.

“Just part of the job” is no more, no longer. The acceptance of bad conduct and disrespect must be excised from our thinking and replaced with action. Know that you are highly valued, and we have your back.