The rising risks for healthcare workers

Healthcare workers put their time and energy into providing high-quality care to patients each day. At the same time, there is both anecdotal evidence and data indicating rising rates of violence in their places of work.

Scott Amaral, BSN, RN, a nurse at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, was critically injured in a Sept. 8 attack by a patient in the psychiatric unit. Two employees at Saratoga Hospital in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., were stabbed by a patient Oct. 1. And this week, the man accused of fatally shooting two workers inside Methodist Dallas Medical Center in October 2022 is going on trial.

There is data pointing to the problem, too. The latest available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2021, private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. If you remove illnesses, the healthcare and social services industry recorded 453,200 nonfatal injuries — the highest of any industry. 

Amid violence against healthcare workers, hospitals, health systems and states across the U.S. are making efforts to address the issue. These efforts range from a new code of conduct policy to legislation that increases penalties for people convicted of battery of a healthcare provider.

For example, after a nurse of its own was attacked, Rhode Island Hospital launched an anti-violence campaign Oct. 19 to promote safety. The Connecticut Hospital Association also announced Oct. 20 that it adopted a code of conduct policy for patients and families. The policy prohibits aggressive or violent behavior against healthcare workers, including physical assaults, threats or abusive language; discriminatory language; "language or actions that may be perceived as sexual harassment"; and possession of weapons.

Additionally, legislation in North Carolina, which was signed by the governor Sept. 29, requires hospitals with emergency departments to ensure that at least one law enforcement officer is present at all times, unless the hospital determines with local law enforcement that it is exempt, according to NBC affiliate WITN.

Physician and Pitt County Rep. Tim Reeder, MD, told the station, "With the challenges of violence in the workplace; it prevents us as doctors, and nurses, and staff from dedicating our time and energy to the patient when we're worried about our own safety."

Read more about efforts being made by states and health systems to protect their healthcare workers here

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