31% of nursing staff say that there has been an increase in the amount of violence in their workplace. Worryingly, both patients and their families are physically and verbally attacking nurses as they try to help those most in need. Nursing staff should not be afraid to go to work, so what should their employers do to ensure their health and safety?
Statistics show that healthcare workers are involved in three quarters of all workplace assaults, but just 30% of nurses report them. One study found that almost 52% of nurses didn’t know how to report acts of violence. Meanwhile, more than 50% of nurses say they don’t report violence because the hospital they work at is more concerned about their patients than their workers. This shows that hospitals have an important role to play in getting nurses to speak up. The Nurses’ attitudes towards the reporting of violence in the emergency department study found that nurses prefer informal methods of reporting, so it’s wise to implement this, in the form of verbal reporting. The same study also highlighted the need for policies and procedures to be put into place for reporting violence. A clear definition of what violence is is needed too as some nurses don’t view verbal abuse as problematic.
Follow state laws
Sadly, there aren’t any federal laws to protect nurses against violence in the workplace. However, many states are acting to protect these valuable workers, so it’s crucial that healthcare employers implement the relevant legislation. For example, California and Washington have violence prevention laws in place. Missouri has recently made it against the law to threaten a health care worker and Texas has also proposed a similar law and are hoping for it to be passed soon. For the time being in the state, if a healthcare employer has opted for a Texas workers compensation non subscriber plan, they risk being sued if a nurse is injured while they’re on duty. They should, however, have an injured employee plan which details what medical help, pay, and return to work conditions the injured worker will get.
Violence against nurses is a particularly bad problem in Missouri. The Cox Medical Center says they’ve seen a spike in violent incidents, including assaults rising from 40 in 2019 to 123 in 2020. This has resulted in the hospital buying panic buttons for more than 300 members of their staff. If a nurse is assaulted or feels intimidated at work, a press of the button will send security to assist the worker. Panic buttons and similar safety devices are effective and reassuring devices to nurses and are sure to make them feel safer at work. They may even prevent attacks as the alarms will be visible on the nurse’s badge which could make some people stop and think before getting aggressive.
Violence in the workplace is a growing problem among nurses. Employers must ensure they do everything possible to protect these workers for the sake of themselves, their nurses’ wellbeing, and the general health of the public.