Is being a nurse dangerous? 2017 has been a tragic year for nurse’s country wide. Horrendous acts have catapulted a long standing issue into the limelight.
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing, 76 percent of nurses at a private hospital system in Virginia said they had experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients in the previous year. Advisory.com
This epidemic is on the rise, often resulting in tragedy. To add insult to injury the attitude of the healthcare system today and to be honest many professional nurses is that a certain level of abuse and mistreatment of our nurses is tolerable and expected when entering the nursing profession. While no one questions how dangerous the police profession is, the assault on a police officer or his K9 partner could result in a felony charge. The everyday assault nurses experience is often considered “part of the job.”
What confuses this situation, however, is that in many cases these outburst towards nursing staff is a result of underlying conditions such as Dementia or confusion. I have been bitten, scratched, had things thrown at me as a nurse, in my case these were the result of very confused patients with memory impairment and in the first few years of my career often because of my own inexperience in approach and redirection. There is a distinct learning curve here that takes time and experience to overcome. My question then becomes what are we doing on a global scale to ensure the safety of our nurses while they are overcoming this learning curve?
Part of the problem is cultural, Ross says: “It’s long been looked at, when you get spat on or verbally abused, pinched, hit over that head with something … not just by the nurses and health care workers themselves, but by people in positions of authority, that this was just part of the job, and it’s something you know you accept when you decide to go, for example, into nursing.” Health.usnews.com
The issue of assault by patients is complicated by the recognition that, in most instances, it’s not deliberate, Ross says: “Most of these people are not trying to harm you.” Patients whose thinking is clouded by drugs or dementia may believe they’re protecting themselves, Ross says, when staff members attempt to start an IV line or prevent patients from putting themselves at risk by yanking out a urinary catheter. Health.usnews.com
It’s a unique issue with unique problems, but problems that need to be solved nonetheless.
In preparing this article, I began my research looking for what systems are in place today on a global scale to protect nurses. I found nothing. If procedures are in place, it is due to specific hospital protocols with minimal requirements from a state or federal level. In fact according to Nursingworld.org only CA, CT, IL, MD, MN, NJ, OR has anything in place to that requires employers to run workplace violence programs. NY has such policies but only for public employers.
What also struck me when doing research is much of the research is years old. In fact, many sites are citing research from 2010 to 2013 with very little from 2014 through 2016. Now, this may be due to incidents like what has happened recently sparking research to be conducted more thoroughly through these time frames but this hasn’t stopped in fact in much of research with the rise in mental health, and substance abuse there has been ever increasing the problem.
…there has been a 110 percent spike in the rate of violent incidents reported against health-care workers. In one informal survey, as many as one-in-four nurses suggested that they had been attacked at work between 2013 and 2014 alone.* Patients often kick, scratch, and grab them; in rare cases even kill them. In fact, there are nearly as many violent injuries in the health-care industry as there are in all other industries combined. Health-care workers make up 9 percent of the workforce. TheAtlantic.com.
As a nurse leader, I think we have a responsibility to not only speak out and speak up for better working condition including nurse staffing ratios but be a voice in coming up with solutions. We know what it takes to do our jobs and do them well, just yelling and lobbying isn’t enough we also need to be a voice in the creation of laws and the education of our healthcare system.
The first step is to raise awareness about how dangerous the nursing profession has become. I challenge nurse bloggers and nurse leaders to raise awareness and bring the spotlight on this rising concern.
Next week we will discuss strategy and techniques for identifying these dangerous situations and diffusing them.