Schemery Zicolello

Pennsylvania healthcare workers are at risk of violence

Many who work in the healthcare industry will say that it is a calling. The work is exhausting, challenging and often thankless. Nurses in particular often see people at the worst times of their lives. Despite this, as a nurse, you do your best to take it all in stride.

You understand that your job comes with risks, and you risk injuries from a variety of sources, including violence.

Is workplace violence really that prevalent in the healthcare industry?

Unfortunately, workplace violence is a problem in the healthcare industry. Most people focus on threats of physical harm or actual physical assaults, but bodily injuries may not be necessary in order to be workplace violence.

Verbal assaults, threats, harassment and hostility can leave psychological injuries that make doing your job nearly impossible. Not to mention the fact that verbal threats and assaults can escalate into physical violence if left unchecked.

Workplace violence is often unreported or underreported by healthcare workers. In fact, some believe it's just part of the job. This may be because many nurses don't believe that a patient intentionally harmed them. They may also not want to stigmatize a patient who is already ill, injured or impaired in some way. In fact, the majority of violence comes from patients. Other sources include visitors, co-workers or intruders.

A patient's family member may become distraught, the emergency room may become host to gang violence, or some other circumstance could lead to a violent outburst or an active shooter situation. Domestic disputes can erupt or co-workers could bully you.

What factors put you most at risk?

Even though you may not be able to predict when a patient or someone else will snap, the following common factors could lead to violence or create an atmosphere in which it can occur:

  • Inadequate lighting in exterior areas or hallways
  • Poor environmental design that blocks escape routes or vision
  • Working with people with violent histories
  • Working with people under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Working alone
  • Working in a high-crime area
  • Inadequate security staff
  • Overcrowded waiting rooms
  • Long wait times
  • Unrestricted public access
  • Lack of emergency communication systems
  • Lack of policies and staff training
  • Lack of sufficient staff, especially during visiting hours and meal times
  • Moving or lifting patients
  • Presence of firearms

If the healthcare facility tends to tolerate workplace violence and staff members fail to report it, this could also increase the incidence of violence against you. If you do suffer physical and/or psychological injuries due to workplace violence, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to help you recover. You may also be able to file a third-party action against the individual who caused you harm, depending on the situation.

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