Recent reports of violence against health care workers in hospitals are raising the question: are hospitals safe workplaces? Health care workers are 5 times more likely to experience violence at the workplace than other professions and has recommended hospitals set up a patient risk assessment strategy. Close to 40 states now have laws that either establish or increase penalties for assaults on health care workers, according to the American Nurses Association.
The Joint Commission defines workplace violence as “an act or threat occurring at the workplace that can include: verbal, nonverbal, written, or physical aggression; threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating words or actions; bullying; sabotage; sexual harassment; or physical assaults.”
Despite the increased attention to the problem, the incidence of violence has increased, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the data may not represent the whole picture as workplace violence is often under-reported. Some of the reasons given by health care workers for not reporting violence include:
- Patients who are not in their “right mind” cannot be held accountable for their actions.
- Reporting can be time-consuming and difficult for health care employees working under high-stress conditions.
- Fear of retaliation from management and/or colleagues who are concerned that reports of violence reflect poorly on a health care team/workplace.
- No injury occurred or time was lost because of the incident, or the violence wasn’t physical.
- The widespread belief that violence is simply “part of the job.”
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) has condemned workplace violence. “We urge all health care facilities to implement comprehensive violence prevention programs and freedom from retaliation for reporting workplace incidents,” said AANP.
The expectation of violence should never be “part of the job.” Yes, health care workers face unique challenges and a potentially dangerous patient population but hospitals need to provide support and security to provide safe spaces for workers.
Nikki Kean, Director
The Clinical Advisor