February 16, 2024

New Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct to be implemented

A new Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct addressing acts of mistreatment and discrimination is now in effect at Vanderbilt Health’s hospitals and clinics.

When entering Vanderbilt Health’s hospitals and clinics visitors are greeted by signage displaying phrases like, ‘All people are welcome here. But all behavior Isn’t.’ The signs are in response to an increase in workplace violence perpetrated on health care workers and are in place to signal that inappropriate behavior directed toward Vanderbilt’s physicians, nurses, staff and students is not acceptable.

Already, institutional policies to address patients’ acts of physical violence and verbal abuse involving health care workers are in place. To accompany these policies, a new Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct addressing acts of mistreatment and discrimination is now in effect.

The Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct was created to help foster an environment of mutual respect between patients and health care workers and establishes standards for behaviors that, going forward, will be expected of patients and their visitors when interacting with members of VUMC’s workforce. The Code of Conduct creates processes for redress when workforce members are subjected to words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile or harassing.

“Just as we expect our Vanderbilt Health workforce to treat patients and families with dignity and respect, we expect our patients and visitors to do the same. Our primary goal is to deliver the highest quality of care to everyone, and this new code of conduct will help create an environment where everyone feels safe and able to provide the best care and service,” said Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusiveness.

Through the Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct we clearly articulate that acts of mistreatment and discrimination directed at workforce members, other patients or visitors that occurs in person, through VUMC’s online portal, My Health at Vanderbilt, in other written forms, by phone, or in other settings will not be tolerated.

Forms of mistreatment and discrimination defined through the Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct are acts that interfere with a safe environment; limit staff from providing care; disrupt another patient’s care or experience; are abusive or disrespectful; or are discriminatory or racist.

“VUMC’s employees thrive in a culture of service and professionalism as defined in our Credo and Patient and Family Promise. This culture has allowed for us to care for patients in a personalized way and at the highest possible level.  The Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct now sets expectations on how we expect our employees to be treated by both patients and visitors at VUMC. The goal of this code is to help set expectations on what behaviors and actions are appropriate and to assist us in providing top-notch care and an excellent experience for all,” said David Haynes, MD, professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Neurological Surgery, and Chief Patient Experience Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Examples of mistreatment and discrimination defined in the Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct include:

  • Racism — Offensive or bigoted comments about someone’s race or ethnicity, or more subtle indirect insults about a person based on their background.
  • Discrimination against someone based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sex, age, skin color, disability, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, genetic information, veteran or active military status, or any other legally protected status.
  • Refusing care or service from a workforce member based on one of the personal characteristics listed above.
  • Verbal abuse — Name calling, yelling, cursing or belittling.
  • Emotional abuse — Acts or words that make workforce members feel unsafe or uncomfortable such as stalking or bullying.
  • Sexual abuse — Unwanted touching or use of sexual or vulgar words or other actions.
  • Threats — Threatening statements or acts of intimidation.
  • Physical abuse — Throwing items, hitting, kicking or spitting.

Violations of the Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct can initiate a range of responses for patients including visitor restrictions, behavioral agreements or contracts, and other actions up to and including termination of care in non-emergent situations.

Patients who have violated the Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct through words or actions will be given a chance to explain their point of view and will be given consideration before decisions are made about future care.

The Patient and Visitor Code of Conduct is available in Spanish and Arabic.