Nursing's 'dirty little secret'? Workplace violence, says 73-year-old nurse

Sheila Wilson, RN, is a 73-year-old nurse dedicated to addressing what she calls "the dirty little secret of nursing" — workplace violence, reports Boston Globe.

Violence against healthcare workers accounts for almost as many workplace injuries as all other industries combined, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Healthcare workers suffered 15,000 to 20,000 serious injuries annually from 2011 to 2013, according to OSHA data. The agency suspects workplace violence is grossly underreported and occurs far more often than official statistics indicate.

"Being punched, bitten, spit upon, groped, jumped on from behind, knocked unconscious, and attacked with weapons are common occurrences for healthcare professionals," Ms. Wilson told Boston Globe.

Her first workplace injury occurred while she was working as a nursing assistant at Dorchester, Mass.-based Carney Hospital, and a patient punched her in the face — simply "[b]ecause he could," Ms. Wilson said.

Ms. Wilson cofounded Stop Healthcare Violence, a nonprofit group focused on creating a safe workplace environment for healthcare workers, in 2009. The group has been lobbying the Massachusetts Legislature to boost penalties for assaults on healthcare workers from misdemeanors to felonies, according to the report. The group also advocates for legislation to make healthcare facilities safer by adding more security workers, better lighting and panic buttons, among other measures.

Ms. Wilson will join other lobbyists — including the Massachusetts Nurses Association — to testify at a State House hearing on healthcare violence July 11.

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