The two deaths came in quick succession, shocking the close-knit community of health care workers at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
First, in August 2013, an administrative assistant was fatally shot by her estranged husband while she was helping her 3-year-old son get into a car. Five months later, a nurse who worked with oncology patients was stabbed to death by her son after a history of domestic altercations.
“She was very optimistic and positive,” said Michele McKee, director of nursing services. “The staff is still struggling with the loss. There was denial. Tears. Anger. And then, guilt. What did we miss? What could we have done?”
While hospital staff had been trained to identify patients who were experiencing domestic violence, they didn’t pay the same attention to warning signs in their own peers, said Leslie Hott, St. Joseph’s human resources manager.
“Our value statement says, ‘loving service, compassionate care,’” Hott said. “We typically think about that for those we care for, but not each other.”
That is now changing.
St. Joseph is undergoing an ambitious effort to address domestic violence among its workforce, rolling out an intensive training program to help staff members identify — and hopefully prevent — domestic violence, as well as a new workplace policy to support employees who are suffering.
The hospital partnered with Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit that has helped organizations across the country address how domestic violence hurts its workforce. In 2014, Futures began a pilot site project called Low Wage, High Risk to develop best practices for workplaces where employees may be vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. The nonprofit is currently collaborating with tomato crop workers in Florida and restaurant employees in New York, as well as health care workers at St. Joseph in Towson.
The hospital didn’t have a formal workplace domestic violence policy in place when its staffers were killed. Most organizations across the country don’t, even though domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women in the U.S.
There was denial. Tears. Anger. And then, guilt. What did we miss? What could we have done?Michele McKee, director of nursing services
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