Study Finds Culture Change Needed to Reduce Violence Against Healthcare Workers

The Emergency Nurses Association‘s recently published study — “Nothing Changes, Nobody Cares: Understanding the Experience of Emergency Nurses Physically or Verbally Assaulted While Providing Care” — spells out exactly what every healthcare worker has shared with the California Safe Care Standard campaign since its launch: the culture of acceptance about workplace violence prevalent among hospital administrators and law enforcement needs to change.

“Assaults on emergency nurses have lasting impacts on the nurses and the ability of emergency care facilities to provide quality care,” ENA President Deena Brecher says. “More than 70 percent of emergency nurses reported physical or verbal assaults by patients or visitors while they were providing care. As a result, we lose experienced and dedicated nurses to physical or psychological trauma for days or sometimes permanently. Healthcare organizations have a responsibility to nurses and the public to provide a safe and secure environment.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, assaults on healthcare workers are the most common sources of nonfatal injuries or illnesses requiring days off from work in the healthcare and social assistance industry. Despite this, the ENA study discovered a culture of acceptance among hospital administrators, prosecutors, and judges. One emergency nurse assault victim reported being told by a judge, “well, isn’t that the nature of the beast, being in the emergency room and all?” Another told the researchers that the “administration will only take action when some lethal event happens.”

“There will always be the potential for violence against emergency nurses,” Brecher says. “But we must not accept it as the price of helping the sick and injured. With training and a change of culture, we can significantly decrease the occurrence of assaults against emergency nurses.”

While training and a change of culture can decrease the violence that healthcare workers face on a daily basis, there must also be fundamental engineering and administrative changes at the facilities where we work. It is with this in mind that the California Safe Care Standard campaign is working toward a comprehensive, enforceable Cal/OSHA standard to prevent workplace violence against healthcare workers.

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