Northwell Health's chief experience officer on making the network a 'safe place'

Healthcare leaders and government officials have focused attention on violence in healthcare settings in 2023, with health systems setting clear expectations about visitor behavior and lawmakers introducing legislation to stiffen penalties for those who commit violence against healthcare workers.

 Sven Gierlinger, senior vice president and chief experience officer of Northwell Health, spoke with Becker's to discuss the health network's successes in making the system safe for employees, patients and families in 2023.

Editor's note: This response was edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Question: What was the project or initiative you oversaw from the last year that yielded the best results? 

At Northwell Health, there has been a concerted effort in creating a safe and therapeutic environment — one where patients, families and employees feel secure, welcomed and respected. Our organization has been a leader in advocating that gun violence is a public health crisis. Unfortunately, there have been too many headlines of threats and violence within healthcare facilities across the country. And thus, a multidisciplinary team, in which patient experience was a contributor, has created and sustained the "Northwell Safe Place Initiative." This multifaceted, team-based approach includes policies regarding guidelines on handling aggressive/violent behavior, armed security officers, weapons detection technology, escalation channels and behavioral expectations signage. Teams were educated on verbal deescalation skills and active shooter protocols. Lastly, visitation continues towards operating at a 24/7 model as we recognize that family presence is critical to patient outcomes, well-being, and overall experience.



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