Violence Against Healthcare Workers Is On The Rise

According to OSHA, 75% of workplace assaults occur in health care. Workers in health care settings are 4 times more likely to be victimized than workers in private industry. WHY?

Why do we have to “put up” with being kicked, punched, spit on, choked, groped, and so on? It is inexcusable to hit ANYONE, including children (YES, that includes spanking).

“I’ve been bitten, kicked, punched, pushed, pinched, shoved, scratched, and spat upon,” says Lisa Tenney, RN, of the Maryland Emergency Nurses Association. “I have been bullied and called very ugly names. I’ve had my life, the life of my unborn child, and of my other family members threatened, requiring security escort to my car.”

Do contributing factors matter?

Should we excuse violent behavior if we think it is caused by dementia, delirium, substance intoxication, or decompensated mental illness?

And is the epidemic of violence somehow a deeper reflection on the failures of our healthcare system?

Here are some of the main reported factors associated with violence in healthcare:

  • Stressful conditions, like long wait times or not receiving medications
  • Patients not feeling listened to
  • Being given “bad news” or a poor prognosis
  • Domestic disputes among patients and visitors
  • Inadequate security and mental health security
  • Understaffing, especially during meal times and visiting hours
  • Staff working in isolation

So what do we do about it?

People are angry because this is the most emotionally intense environment they can be in. Economic forces have created an environment where patients are now considered “customers,” and the customer is always right…so they to scream and threaten when they don’t get their way.

Yes, there are ways to deescalate these situations. Healthcare professionals can be trained in deescalation, and there’s tons of resources out there like this Toolkit For Mitigating Violence in the Workplace by the Emergency Nurse’s Association. But that’s often just not enough.

We need a system change, better training, and an assumption that violence and verbal aggression will not be tolerated. BUT…patients need to be listened to and feel HEARD. Very difficult to do with poor staffing, conflicting incentives and directives, and lack of time.

Can we recondition people (parents AND patients) to stop using violence as a tool? We’ve seen it happen, societal norms can change and individuals can change. Let’s REFUSE to be #silentnomore.

ZPac, check out the original video here on Facebook and share this with your friends, family, parents, and coworkers. We cannot keep brushing healthcare violence under the rug. You can check out the free podcast version here on iTunes and Soundcloud. This is your call to action!