The violence problem faced by health care workers

Health care workers face their share of workplace job hazards that may lead to injury, most notably overexertion along with slips and falls. But one area that sometimes gets overlooked is workplace violence, which has become a major issue.

On a regular basis, nurses, doctors and other health care workers are punched, kicked, beaten, bitten, strangled, stabbed, shot and physically assaulted.

According to a recent report from the University of Illinois, 90 percent of nurses surveyed in that state noted that they had experienced workplace violence at least once in the past year. More alarming was that 50 percent of the nurses said they experienced violence six or more times in a year.

Threatened, punched, harassed

A total of 275 nurses who worked at such places as hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers participated in the Illinois survey. The nurses – the vast majority of whom were female – described how they had been subjected to verbal abuse, name-calling, threats, pinching, punching, having objects thrown at them as well as sexual assault and threats that included stalking, groping and sexual harassment.

Front-line health care workers face the brunt of such violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics disclosed that 58 hospital workers died due to workplace violence from 2011 to 2016.

Workplace violence in hospitals and other medical facilities contributes to:

  • Decreased productivity and higher employee turnover.
  • Reduction in quality care for patients. Studies have shown that hospital patients are more content with their care from nurses and health care workers who are satisfied while on the job.

Legislation introduced

Earlier this year, members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation geared toward preventing workplace violence at health care facilities. The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a standard mandating all employers to prevent workplace violence in health care facilities.

The legislation would require workplaces to collaborate with doctors, nurses and custodial workers to create and then implement violence prevention plans. The key takeaways for the bill are prevention, training and worker participation.

Health care workers are a vital part of patient care and keeping a hospital operating in tip-top shape. Violence does not belong in any workplace. As the public grows more aware of this problem at health care facilities, its members just may empathize with health care workers. This, in itself, may help minimize the violence problem.

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