Violence in the workplace is not tolerated. Most professions will protect their workers from workplace violence. Nursing, however, is very different. How can you be protected from the violence that confused, drugged-out, neuro-damaged patients will ultimately give you? You can’t. It’s a simple fact that nurses will be assaulted at one time or another during your career.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace. Violence includes overt and covert behaviors ranging in aggressiveness from verbal harassment to murder. (NIOSH 1996)
Violence in healthcare
Violence in healthcare is such a formidable issue that OSHA has put together a complete policy to address it.
Head Nurse, a fellow nursing blogger posted about an incident that occurred to her in the workplace. “Well That’s Never Happened Before” She puts a funny spin on the experience but the reality can be scary and potentially dangerous.
I’ve been assaulted on many occasions as a nurse. Once a young confused patient grabbed my stethoscope (that was around my neck) and proceeded to nearly choking me to unconsciousness with it. Needless to say, I never wear my stethoscope around my neck anymore.
I’ve been punched, kicked, spit on, pinched so many times that I can’t even count them. This is just the physical violence that I’ve encountered. I haven’t even mentioned the verbal assaults that I’ve received not only from patients and family members but doctors and co-workers as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare sector leads all other industries, with 45% of all nonfatal assaults against workers resulting in lost workdays in the US. (BLS, 2006).
Why aren’t nurses and healthcare professionals protected better? We aren’t allowed to utilize restraints except for extreme circumstances and at that, it takes a ridiculous amount of steps to obtain. It’s unethical to simply ‘drug’ a combative patient. What is being done to protect us as nurses from violence?
As a healthcare worker, have you been assaulted by a patient or family member? What are your thoughts on what can be done to protect nurses in the workplace? Do you feel that violence is just ‘part of the job’ and accept it?