News & Events

New standard set after MNA nurses advocate for metal detectors in their facilities

Holyoke, Springfield methadone clinics appear to be first in state to provide this level of security for staff, patients

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
February 2007 Edition

By Evelyn Bain, M Ed, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director/Coordinator, Health & Safety

Workplace violence prevention was an important issue for nurses at Providence Hospital in Holyoke during their 2003 contract negotiations. And their work on the issue paid off.

Their subsequent 2004-2006 contract included a statement supporting a nurse’s right to contact the police if assaulted; a method for reporting and following-up on violence; and a method of weapons detection, removal, storage and disposition. But with two out-patient methadone clinics within the Providence Hospital network, the bargaining unit also advocated for one the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, recommendations: utilizing metal detectors as one method of preventing violence in healthcare settings.

As previous articles in the Massachusetts Nurse have noted, the reporting system at this facility is in place and is working well, and nurses have been supported when the need to contact police has arisen. But the latest news out of the bargaining unit about the metal detectors has set a new standard.

The two methadone clinics that are part of the hospital system provide care to 850 to 900 individuals each year, resulting in 300,000 patient visits annually.

Inside the clinics: metal detectors
While the hospital had a policy explaining that patients and visitors should not carry any weapon onto hospital property, weapons had been seen. There were also concerns that weapons might be concealed. No serious incidents have occurred, but as part of the violence prevention program, more accurate measures for weapons detection were clearly indicated.

In December 2006, metal detectors were installed at these locations and on Jan. 2, the detectors were activated in the two methadone clinics. During the first few days of utilization, the detectors identified a variety of weapons including 31 knives and other potential weapons such as box cutters and screw drivers. Now that the process is routine, weapons are seldom seen.

Denny Glidden, RN and co-chairperson of the MNA bargaining unit at Providence Hospital works in the methadone program at both locations. Glidden recently said that the metal detectors were a “long time coming and a welcome addition to the violence prevention program.” She thanked the MNA and the Violence Prevention Task Force at Providence Hospital for their work on this issue noting, however, that “much has been accomplished and more still more needs to be done.”

Donna Wood RN, BSN and manager of the methadone clinics, said she was proud that they appear to be the first clinic in the state to have accomplished this level of safety for patients and staff. She viewed it as a positive step in the violence prevention program at Providence Hospital. Wood added said that several patients had also recently commented about feeling safer in the clinic with this level of protection installed.

Andrea Fox, RN and the MNA associate director who negotiated the workplace violence prevention language, said that although the hospital initially noted the cost of the metal detectors was high, they did put the items in their budgets and followed through with the measures needed to ensure the safety of the patients and staff

Random calls to numerous methadone clinics across Massachusetts revealed that metal detectors were not installed in any other facility. There was interest and support for the metal detectors as a violence prevention strategy by persons who answered the calls at several of the clinics contacted.