Patient Assaults on Nurses: 5 Things Nurses Should Do


These are just a few of the news headlines about violence against nurses from across the world, and the incidence seems to be increasing. It occurs most commonly in Emergency Departments and at long-term care facilities, and with patients who are mentally unstable or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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 open as well as hidden aggression and ranges from verbal abuse to homicide.

The American Nurses Association is taking a firm stance on violence against nurses and, in July 2015, issued a policy statement Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence. In it, the ANA advocates the development of evidence-based strategies to prevent and take action to lessen the effects of incivility, bullying, and workplace violence to promote the health, safety, and wellness of registered nurses and other health care workers.

The British Columbia Nurses Union in Canada has launched a hotline for nurses assaulted on the job. According to the President of the Union, nurses have a higher rate of work-related assault than police officers. The Emergency Nurses Association recognizes violence against nurses as a serious occupational risk which requires action by employers, law enforcement, and the community.

The Emergency Nurses Association recognizes violence against nurses as a serious occupational risk which requires action by employers, law enforcement, and the community.

With increasing workplace violence, what can need to know and what they can do during these situations? 

1. Never accept violence as part of the job

Studies have shown that many incidents of violence against nurses are not reported. One of the reasons might be that nurses accept violent behavior as part of the patient’s problem “He couldn’t help it,” “She was drunk”. Another reason might be a real or imagined belief of indifference on the part of management or fear of being dismissed if they speak up.

2. Take action after an assault

If you have been assaulted, remove yourself to a safe area and ask a co-worker to stand in for you. Call for security back-up or police assistance as necessary. Report the assault to your supervisor as well as to your union. This can initially be done verbally, but you should follow up with written reports. Exercise your civil right of reporting the incident to the police.

Return to work only once you feel safe and confident.

3. Support co-workers who have been assaulted

A violent assault has a severe impact on the victim which is often not acknowledged or understood. It leaves the person shaken, confused, fearful and with a loss of self-confidence. It would be of great help to this person to have someone in their corner to guide and assist in reporting to management, writing up incident and police reports, and even accompanying her to the doctor and the court.

4. Advocate for adequate organizational policy

All organizations should have an adequate policy and other measures in place to deal with acts of violence. Unfortunately, based solely on statistics of incidences rather than the real and hidden costs, many organizations do not view this as a priority.

5. Join nursing groups advocating for legislation

Because of the wide-spread concern about increasing violence against nurses, nursing organizations across the world are seeing this as a priority issue and lobbying for stricter laws and penalties for incidents where nurses are assaulted. Every nurse should support this action within their own area of influence.

Courtesy: Nurseslabs


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