Violence against nurses in the workplace is incredibly common. Unfortunately, it’s been a taboo topic. People are more open to discussing the problem these days, which provides an important opportunity for everyone to become aware of the issue. Increased awareness brings greater chances of preventing violent outbursts and being able to respond to them appropriately when they do occur. Eventually, this should lead to safer conditions for nurses, other medical personnel and the patients under their care.
Many nurses are surprised to hear the results of a recent study which suggests that 80 percent of emergency nurses experienced some type of on-the-job violence in one year. That number sounds disproportionate. However, many behaviors can be considered violent. It is not necessary for a nurse to receive a physical injury in order for them to experience workplace violence.
For instance, an overwrought family member who yells at a nurse or engages in harassing or threatening behavior is considered to be committing violence. The same can be said of the patient who spits on the nurse who is treating them. Of course, there are also the more blatant acts that may include hitting, scratching or even attacking with a weapon. In the most tragic scenarios, nurses have even been killed in their place of work.
Violent acts against nurses may be committed by patients, relatives of patients, co-workers and others whom they may encounter in the course of their employment. Bullying or harassing behavior is still considered violence whether a patient is in the throes of dementia or under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
For too long, nurses have shrugged off many of these instances, believing them to simply be part of the job. However, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, says otherwise. The assorted regulations imposed by OSHA are designed to keep workers safe regardless of the industry in which they work. That includes nurses who are as entitled as any other employee to have a safe workplace where they are not bullied or harassed in any way. In fact, OSHA imposes a duty upon employers to provide safe working conditions.
OSHA does not give step-by-step instructions for how to guarantee safety in the workplace. It does provide protections for employees who become whistleblowers, making it safer than ever for nurses to report violent behavior. OSHA also suggests general guidelines for creating a safer workspace. These include providing adequate safety training for all employees so they will know how to react in a potentially violent confrontation.
Other recommendations include hiring sufficient security staff and instituting a no weapons policy at the workplace. Nursing organizations, like the American Nursing Association, are becoming increasingly involved in preventing workplace violence. Accordingly, such an organization may be able to assist with training and violence prevention programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a free online course aimed at preventing violence against nurses, which can provide helpful tips.
Violence against nurses may be relatively common, but there are ways to protect workers and prevent outbursts. With proper training and appropriate responses, the workplace can become safer for everyone.