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Is there a violence epidemic in healthcare?

Healthcare workers interact with patients and their families every day. These medical professionals are providing care, but what many people may not realize is they are also exposing themselves to possible abuse and assaults daily.

Violence against workers is a national epidemic

Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, stated very few people talk about violence against healthcare workers, but it is a “national epidemic.” While it may seem like Mihaljevic is overstating the case, the numbers seem to suggest otherwise.

Most violent injuries occurred in healthcare

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states in 2017, there were 18,400 people who were injured through “intentional injury by other person” incidents at work. Of those private sector injuries, 71 percent occurred in healthcare and social services. These were only the injuries that were serious to require time off work. The number of violent incidents in healthcare is likely much higher.

Likely many incidents go unreported by workers

Gerard Castro, a project director for patient safety initiatives, stated many nurses are dealing with being called names or spat on nearly daily. In most other workplaces, this would be called workplace violence, but unfortunately, many healthcare workers have learned to deal with it.

OSHA has a program to reduce injuries

That does not mean there are no answers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes healthcare facilities can reduce workplace violence and protect workers from injury. The agency has a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. The program includes five components:

  • Commitment from management and participation from employees
  • Analysis of the worksite and identifying hazards
  • Controlling and preventing hazards
  • Health and safety training
  • Evaluation of the program and keeping records

In OSHA’s suggestions about how to make these plans work at a healthcare facility, the agency gives multiple examples including St. Agnes Hospital. According to OSHA, the hospital uses an electronic incident reporting system to report incidents of violence. The hospital also requires employees to discuss an incident after it happens—talk about why it occurred and what could be done to prevent it. They also have barred repeat violent visitors from the facility, except in the emergency room.

Each facility should determine its own needs

OSHA also emphasizes approaches will vary by facilities and cities. However, management and staff working together is one step toward preventing violence against healthcare workers.

Injured health professionals deserve care

If you have suffered an injury due to workplace violence, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries. Compensation should cover your medical bills and part of your salary. If a third party causes your injuries, you may also have a personal injury claim against the negligent party.

Though many healthcare workers are used to suffering in silence, you do not have to suffer. You deserve the care you bestow on your patients every day. If you are not receiving what you need to heal, consider seeking legal help.

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