Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: Workplace Violence Towards Nurses

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Thousands of nurses across the country go to work every day with the intention of providing dedicated, compassionate medical care to their patients. What they do not expect is to be physically attacked, verbally abused, or threatened by the very patients that are under their care. Sadly, workplace violence particularly in hospital and psychiatric facilities has been growing at a rapid rate.

More than 20 percent of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in the healthcare and social assistance industry. While violence in the workplace in other industries has gone down over the last 25 years, it has increased by over 100 percent in the healthcare and psychiatric industries, with the majority of the victims being women.

The problem of workplace violence among healthcare works seems to be two-fold. The patient population at these facilities tends to display more violent, aggressive behavior than patients in other facilities. Secondly, healthcare workers do not always report these types of incidents, so the actual numbers are likely much higher. In addition to injuries, the rate of fatal injury among nurses due to violence is high, accounting for 16 percent of traumatic workplace deaths in 2014.

Addressing the Problem

Legislation was passed in 2000 that addressed workplace violence in the healthcare industry. It required mental health facilities to provide employees with training in violence prevention at least once a year and established protocols for reporting physical and verbal assaults. In an effort to better understand the factors that contribute to workplace violence in psychiatric settings, Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) conducted focus groups, as well as individual interviews, focusing on the following objectives:

  • Find out what the staff and managers’ perceptions are regarding workplace violence, potential solutions and any changes that have been made.
  • Gain a clear understanding of the organization, its culture, scheduling conditions, physical and psychological demands of the job, and whether staff is exposed to workplace violence.
  • Review the organization’s current policies on workplace violence, including reporting and scheduling procedures, and assault prevention training programs.

Based on participant interviews, the researchers found two key themes.

  • Schedule Control: This addresses concerns over low staffing, long hours and voluntary overtime, inconsistent staffing, constraint on vacation, and unscheduled absences. The combination of these factors leads to high levels of stress and exhaustion. By implementing an increased schedule control, it will likely reduce the incidence of workplace violence. SHARP made the following recommendations for schedule control:
    • Limit mandated and voluntary overtime
    • Avoid moving staff from one ward to another in order to maintain stable work teams
    • Create a pool of employees who are willing to function on an as-needed basis
    • Identify ways to make schedules more flexible for direct care nurses
    • Establish a system of schedule control
  • Supervisor/ Co-Worker Support and Incivility:Supervisor Support:When employees perceive that they are valued by their employer, it can have a positive impact on the organization’s culture. Support and positive leadership can have a direct impact on the safety of staff and patients. In the psychiatric ward, the ability to work together as a team is a crucial skill, one that supervisors should encourage and foster. When a patient is agitated, teamwork can prevent a situation from escalating.
    Incivility: This type of behavior, which includes things like hostility, negative nonverbal gestures, failure to share information, intimidation, and gossiping, is intended to harm the recipient. Any individual who engages in this behavior is in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. The following recommendations can help resolve incivility:

    • Train directors, supervisors, and management on how to foster a culture of support and non-violence in psychiatric settings.
    • Develop a clearly defined “Respect in the Workplace” policy that includes how the organization will respond to incivility and bullying.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Workplace Violence

If you are a healthcare worker and you have been a victim of workplace violence, the experience can leave you physically injured and emotionally scarred. Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are on your side and will fight hard on your behalf to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the financial compensation you deserve. For a free case review, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.