Among all the other difficulties nurses deal with in their day to day work, violence against nursing staff is becoming an increasing concern. In fact, nationally crimes against nurses and health care workers are as common as assaults on correctional and police officers.
One Massachusetts nurse was confronted by an angry patient who not only dug her nails into her but threatened her children. Another time the same nurse was assaulted by an H.I.V. infected patient and ended up with the patients blood on her. Violence against nursing staff is seen often in the ER, where many patients are either intoxicated, frustrated with long wait times or both. Nurses maintain that an increase in violence in today’s society and the fact that handguns are easier to obtain, along with a decrease in treatment options to psychiatric patients due to budget cuts are more factors which have led to the increase in violence against the staff. Nurses have reported dealing with with verbal abuse, being kicked, spit upon and assaulted.
Many of these assaults on nursing staff go unreported. In addition, some hospital administrators seem to be reluctant to acknowledge unruly incidents. Nursing advocates maintain that, in the past, nurses were encouraged to just deal with violence against them as if it were part of the job. Some nurses may be afraid to report an incident, fearing it will show up as a negative comment on their performance evaluation as not being able to handle a patient.
Some hospitals have made security guards less obvious by having them wear suits and ties instead of uniforms. While this is done in an effort to make hospitals appear more friendly, some say it has helped with the increase in patient violence.
Nurses maintain a more active presence of security officials, along with violence protection training which would include recognizing a potentially violent situation, are among efforts to help curtail this increasing problem. Other hospitals have gone a step further. For example, the University of Utah Medical Center has an armed police officer in the ER 24 hours a days along with security personnel. In addition, when a crime victim is brought into the ER and the perpetrator has not been apprehended, the ER is put into a lockdown.
With more attention being given to this issue in recent years, more nurses are being encouraged to report any incidents and more hospitals are implementing or increasing training to combat workplace violence and enhance employee and patient safety.