Cox Branson gives employees panic buttons after reports of increased staff assaults by patients

Local News

BRANSON, Mo. – According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, 82.1% of emergency room registered nurses reported physical assault in the previous year.

Along with the national trends, Cox Branson has seen sharp spikes in attacks over the past year, with the total number of assaults tripling.

This reality has led to a new layer of protection for hundreds of employees: Personal Panic Buttons (PPB) which will allow them to receive backup assistance if a situation begins to escalate.

“Just very demeaning types of verbal violence as well as I have had a patient grab my wrist before and not let go,” said Cheyenne Hensley, a nurse at Cox Medical Center Branson.” I’ve had one of my coworkers actually attacked and injured with her wrist and put on a decreased workload due to that. We have security involvement quite a bit because of the violence that occurs on often-times a multiple-times-a-day basis.”

The safety button system will be implemented by the end of the year and is made possible due to support from the Skaggs Foundation.

The Foundation awarded Cox Branson a grant of more than $132,000 to bring the technology to Branson. It’s a decision the Foundation board says was an easy call.

“We wanted to step up immediately and help them,” said Mindy Honey, the director of community relations for the Skaggs Foundation. “We know how much time and effort and hard work that they put in, especially over the last year but we know their heart.”

Cox Branson’s safety system will have two components. Here’s how they work: Approximately 300-400 staff working in the ER and inpatient hospital rooms will have the personal panic button on their badge.

If they are in distress, they push the button, which then activates the personal tracing system. Security is immediately notified, and a pop-up alert on hospital computers shows the employee’s exact location.

If the employee moves after pushing the button, the alert will update their new location.

The distress calls are also displayed in the hospital’s Responder 5 nurse call system.

For example, if a staff member is being assaulted inside a room, the system will activate a custom light pattern being lit outside the room.

All of those calls will ring with a custom tone at designated nurse call consoles.

According to hospital data, Cox Branson workplace violence figures increased significantly from 2019 to 2020, with the pandemic greatly compounding the issue.

Total events increased 94 to 162; total assaults 40 to 123; total injuries 17 to 78; and assaults leading to injury increased from 42.5% to 63%.

This is especially troubling to Cox Branson’s patient safety facilitator, Angie Smith. She handles workplace violence for the hospital.

“To see that these numbers are doubling, tripling, and continuing to go up especially the physical… it’s very unnerving,” said Smith.

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