Healthcare workers push to address workplace violence

Amid increases in violence toward staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, unionized hospital workers are reporting a greater sense of urgency to address the issue at facilities and through legislation, according to Kaiser Health News.

Workplace violence has long existed in healthcare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and social service workers experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence and are five times as likely to be injured because of workplace violence than workers overall. Additionally, the latest comprehensive data from the bureau also shows in 2018, healthcare workers accounted for 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses because of workplace violence nationwide.

This workplace violence has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, according to survey results released in September by National Nurses United. The survey found about 31 percent of hospital nurse respondents said they faced a small or significant uptick in workplace violence, an increase from 22 percent in the union's March survey.

Hospitals cited several factors in interviews with Kaiser Health News, including patients and visitors frustrated with new pandemic-related policies, such as wearing masks and more restrictive visitation policies; the physical nature of COVID-19 infections; patients with mental health issues and the increased workload staff have faced.

Given the workplace violence accounts, unionized healthcare workers are pushing for Congress to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which would require hospitals to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, according to Kaiser Health News. The legislation passed the House in April and has not passed the Senate.

Hospitals have responded to the workplace violence issue, too.

Cox Medical Center Branson (Mo.) said in September that it would issue personal panic buttons to staff to protect against violent patients. According to Kaiser Health News, increased security and de-escalation training are among the other measures some facilities have taken.

Read the full report here.

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