Physical Violence Against Care Providers

There have been numerous articles in the past few years about nurses, physicians and other care providers being physically assaulted by family members of patients in healthcare facilities. The most recent was the incident of Ms. Wubble, an ER RN following her hospital policy on caring for a patient, and then being forcibly restrained by a police officer for not doing what he wanted her to do. While the officer faced serious consequences for his cowardly and inappropriate behavior, the issue begs a bigger question.

When did it become acceptable to physically lash out at those caring for patients in need? Why do folks believe that yelling, screaming, hitting or other assaultive behaviors fixes anything? Why are providers the likely target? What does it say about our collective humanity that this is happening with regularity, and whose job is it to stop it from happening? Do healthcare employers have a responsibility to protect their staff from violent patients and families? Are providers doing everything they can to protect themselves?

In 2000, a National Institutes of Health study identified almost 50% of physical violence in the workplace happens in healthcare settings. That means care providers are much more vulnerable than other work place settings. Do healthcare settings acknowledge this? Are there true safety precautions in place? Paging the security guard to the ER does not count as a precaution! All healthcare providers are important, but as boomers retire, RNs are becoming precious commodities. What is your facility doing to address this issue? What are you doing? Don’t wait; start the conversation!

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN