Multidisciplinary team builds culture of workplace safety

April 4, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Approximately a 5-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Workplace violence is a concern in the health care setting that comes in many different forms.
  • Michigan Medicine has a multidisciplinary Workplace Violence Prevention (WPVP) team, made up of experts from various areas, who actively work to support a physically and psychologically safe, therapeutic, and compassionate workplace environment.
  • There are many resources you can access if you experience workplace violence.

April is National Workplace Violence Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to learn about Michigan Medicine’s Workplace Violence Prevention (WPVP) initiative and the many tools and resources available to support the safety and well-being of faculty, staff, and learners as well as patients, their families, and visitors.

“The health care industry experiences more instances of workplace violence than other industries,” said Victor Hong, M.D., medical director of Psychiatric Emergency Services. “Many of the people who pass through our doors are experiencing physical illness, feelings of uncertainty or circumstances outside of their control.

“Some have difficulty coping with the highly stimulating environment within a health care setting,” Hong said. “This and other personal, social and psychological factors can come together to heighten the risk of violence.”

According to data assessed by the WPVP team, workplace violence has increased in health care, and at Michigan Medicine, over the last few years.

Workplace violence can take many forms, from verbal or written threats and bullying to physical aggression or assaults. It encompasses sexual and gender-based misconduct and intimidating, harassing, or humiliating words and actions. 

The Workplace Violence Prevention team, a multidisciplinary team comprised of experts from many areas, is focused on creating a culture of safety and respect throughout the health system which addresses workplace violence originating from patients, families or interpersonal harm (employee to employee and domestic violence situations).

Prevention in action

The Workplace Violence Prevention initiative focuses on building and sustaining a culture that promotes a physically and psychologically safe and compassionate environment in which patients, families, faculty and staff can provide and receive care. To accomplish this purpose, the team works with frontline staff to develop prevention and support models for workplace violence scenarios. The common areas of focus are environmental safety, training and education, data analysis and reporting, assessment and intervention, and incident response and support.

Some of the notable successes the team has accomplished are highlighted below:

  • Authored a policy that provides structured guidance, evidence-based approaches and enhanced processes when encountering workplace violence events from patients and families.
  • Implemented enhancements to the electronic medical record that facilitate documentation of patient behavior, ultimately leading to the creation of behavioral support plans.
  • Created a process to gather, collate and analyze the details of reported incidents which inform targeted interventions and help identify future areas of need.
  • Developed a process and criteria to assess work environments, resulting in the identification of opportunities to reduce the risk of workplace violence.

Ongoing and future opportunities the team is currently working on:

  • Designing and piloting a model intended to provide a coordinated, interprofessional, evidence-based rapid response to behavioral events to address situations that cannot be managed by universal skills training and local resource mobilization.
  • Creating and rolling out patient-facing signage that sets expectations of behavior and encourages kindness toward our care teams.
  • Developing and implementing strategies to increase the reporting of workplace violence events through a more efficient and accessible process.
  • Creating a training framework that supports a sustainable model of trauma-informed education which accommodates the various levels of risk in our work environments.

Additionally, the team is preparing to launch multidisciplinary workgroups to help inform and create additional workplace violence prevention recommendations.

“It is essential that our workplace be safe, therapeutic, comforting and compassionate for our patients and families, and for our care teams,” said Julie Grunawalt, D.N.P., M.S., R.N., CNML, associate chief nursing officer for medical, emergency and psychiatric services in the adult hospitals at U-M Health.

“By working together, we are committed to mitigating the risk of violence through a comprehensive approach that proactively identifies at-risk situations, enhances training, supports impacted individuals, and fosters a strong culture of safety in our health system. We will work together to ensure that we create an environment of safety and respect that supports all individuals within our health system.”

Additional information can be found on the WPVP initiative website. The WPVP team encourages faculty and staff to send feedback and questions to

Resources to Support You

  • For any emergency, dial 911. When in need of support, call the Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) at 734-763-1131 or visit
  • For the various methods in reporting, refer to the policy
  • To request information on trainings, email
  • The Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience (OCWR) provides short-term counseling, consultation, impactful event support and information.
  • Compassionate Peers and Stress Support (COMPASS) is a network for faculty, staff and house officers who have experienced difficult events. Peer supporters can talk with you about experiences with patient care, including unexpected outcomes, medical errors, or malpractice allegations.
  • Michigan Medicine Wellness Office is dedicated to improving workforce well-being, reducing professional burnout, and creating a caring, safe environment where all faculty, staff and learners at Michigan Medicine can thrive.
  • April is also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. All members of the U-M community are encouraged to report sexual and gender-based misconduct to the university, to the police or both. There is no time limit for reporting an incident. However, the university encourages that reports be made as soon as possible. To file a report and for additional resources, please visit the U-M Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT) Office website.

For additional information on the Workplace Violence Prevention initiative, and important tips from the WPVP team, be sure to watch the Short Takes video above. Throughout April, keep an eye on the Employees at Michigan Medicine Facebook page and digital signs across the organization for weekly safety tips. And click here for a special Workplace Violence Prevention Month Zoom background that you can download and use throughout April.