Healthcare has always had an open door policy. Rarely are residents, patients or even visitors vetted before they enter the building, and nurses are often on the frontlines of greeting these new comers. While the indiscriminate nature of receiving care should be a good thing, in recent years, it has been tainted by what one nurse refers to as the “dirty little secret of nursing.”
Sheila Wilson, a 73-year-old nurse veteran with no plans for retirement, told the Boston Globe that she loves her job and considers it the “best career in the world.” But she, joined by numerous other healthcare workers, has paid a price.
The dirty little secret she and others, including the Canton-based Massachusetts Nurses Association, are fighting to expose? Workplace violence against healthcare workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace violence causes more injuries in healthcare settings than injuries that occur in all other industries combined. The agency also reports that workplace-violence-related injuries in residential care facilities are highest among healthcare settings—even trumping incidences occurring in hospitals. Currently, 18.7 out of 10,000 employees working in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities are affected by workplace-violence-related injuries that cause them to need time off of work. When compared with the healthcare industry as a whole, clocking in at 8.2 workers affected per 10,000, the need for change is evident.
Today, Wilson will testify at a State House hearing in support of a bill that will make hospitals and other clinical settings safer by requiring increased security measures, such as more security workers, better lighting and panic buttons. The bill also increases penalties for those who commit workplace violence, although many agree that the real solution lies in prevention.
Wilson’s experiences with workplace violence shine a harsh light on the job, but one that needs to be exposed. Her stories not only tell of injuries she’s incurred herself, such as severe lacerations to her eyes causing her to almost lose her eyesight after a patient lit his gauze on fire, but stories of her co-workers, such as nurses being punched and kicked in the face, x-ray techs being groped, and even a cardiovascular surgeon who was shot and killed by his patient’s son.
Does your facility have a plan in place for workplace violence? Join Board Certified Healthcare Safety Professional and Designated Safety Training Specialist Steve Wilder this Thursday as he outlines an emergency preparedness plan for the worst case scenario: An active shooter/armed intruder event. Preparedness and response to an active shooter event is the key to survival—and survival is no accident. Sign up today.