January 1st, 2011 Wake Up Call – Another Hospital Workplace Violence Incident.

My happy 2011 celebrations were marred by another workplace violence homicide in my home state of Maryland.   I guess it’s not always ‘the most – wonderful time of the year’!

This incident brings up again the question of how to keep our hospitals and their employees, safe in the new year.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, they brought the hospital workplace violence problem up to a management level – reporting that many doctors now say they feel unsafe at work.

In upscale Bethesda, Maryland, just a minute north of Washington DC, a 40-year old male employee of Suburban Hospital (part of the Johns Hopkins Health System since July 2009), was found dead in a non-patient area of the hospital on January 1 at 10 a.m.

Here are the details (from the Suburban Hospital press release, from January 2, 2011):

Yesterday morning, a Suburban Hospital employee was assaulted in a non-patient-care area of the hospital.  Despite the heroic efforts of the hospital’s emergency response team, attempts to resuscitate the employee were not successful.  He died at the hospital as a result of traumatic injuries sustained to his upper body.

The victim has been identified as Roosevelt Brockington, Jr.  He was 40 years old and he had been employed at Suburban Hospital since August 2006.    Mr. Brockington was a Lead Engineer in the hospital’s Plant Operations Dept,   where he was responsible for operating and maintaining the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Because of the ongoing police investigation, no further information about Mr. Brockington is being released by the hospital at this time.  Suburban Hospital is fully operational today and remains open to patients and visitors.

This incident was a little different from some of the other incidents which have been in the news lately.   First, it was not an inner-city hospital, but instead, a hospital in a very affluent area.  In fact,   Bethesda is one of the most affluent and highly educated locales in the country, placing first in FORBES list of America’s most educated small towns and eleventh on CNNMoney.com’s list of top-earning American towns.

Another difference was that it occurred in mid-morning – 10 a.m., not late at night. News reports about the incident surmised that it was not patient-related, but no one really knows at this early stage in the investigation.

 The victim, Roosevelt Brockington, Jr., was a resident of Lusby, Maryland.  For those who aren’t familiar with Lusby, it is a small town of less than 3,000 people in southern Maryland, over 70 mile commute from Bethesda. 

Having been to over twenty hospitals in 2010, I am struck by the difference between the northern east coast hospitals and the south Florida hospitals.   Many of the hospitals in south Florida have effective visitor management systems in place.  I visited a hospital in Florida just before Christmas, and they had the local choir singing carols in the background, while I took out my drivers license, had my photo taken, and received a visitor’s badge.

There seems to be a mind set in some of the northeast hospitals against trying to manage visitors.  This includes a lack of metal detectors, and a lack of visitor sign-in procedures.  I wonder if this is a cultural attitude – because many of the north east hospitals are older than their south Florida counterparts and may be more entrenched in their attitudes. 

The epidemic of workplace violence in hospitals is only starting to gain national attention since the Journal of the American Medical Association published a research paper on the increase in violence in U.S. hospitals in December 2010, and included the statistics from

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, summarizing Bureau of Justice Statistics data, estimate 1.7 million injuries per year due to workplace assaults, accounting for 18% of all violent crime in the United States and the rate of workplace violence in healthcare setting is about 4 times the national average.

There are a plethora of workplace violence prevention strategies that can be put in place and maybe this New Year’s Day wake up call will result in every hospital examining their Workplace Violence Prevention plans.