Healthcare Workers Under Assault Worldwide

In today’s article we are sharing supporting stories to document healthcare workers that are under assault in a seemingly increasing fashion all around the globe.

In Dec., 2014 there was a journal article in Scientific American on our topic today. It was about the Epidemic Of Attacks On Healthcare Workers and showed an astonishing 80% of nurses reported being attacked on the job within the last year according to a 2014 survey. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics they account for almost 70% of all nonfatal workplace assaults causing days away from work. OHSA says that nursing is one of the most dangerous occupations there is. The Journal article goes on to say that the attacks show no sign of slowing down.

They explained that nurses often have to get uncomfortably close to extremely stressed out people and their relatives so perhaps an element of the aggression is inevitable. In a 2011 ENA (Emergency Nurse Association) survey about half of the nurses surveyed said that the hospital took no action after they were assaulted. OSHA issues guidelines for violence prevention programs but shockingly there is no federal law requiring hospitals to adopt them. Furthermore many nurses report receiving no or minimal workplace safety training and must learn on the go when a situation turns violent.

In this Reuter’s news article about Dr. Gregory Brammer who is an emergency medicine specialist expert and fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians recently brought awareness of the massive systemic problem of workplace violence. In the article he claims that nearly 50% of all violent workplace assaults are perpetrated by healthcare patients. He claims that it’s not surprising hospital emergency departments at the highest rate of workplace violence compared to any other setting in the country. According to Dr. Brammer healthcare workers are victims of violent assault nearly 4 times more than in any other workplace with nearly 25% of emergency department nurses being physically assaulted more than 20 times in the prior three years. During his residency at the University of Arizona medical Center Arizona, the hospital used highly trained German Shepherds in the emergency department acting as a deterrent as well as directly confronting violent patients.

In Canada, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) did this story about Growing Nurse Attacks where they cited an example of over half dozen nurses at St. Joseph’s that have been assaulted or threatened since mid-December. The head of the nurses Association thinks things will get worse because of coming budget cuts. St. Joe’s is one of the largest hospitals and Ontario and takes violence very seriously, yet it has taken 18 months to agree on the wording of a sign about zero tolerance for violence in the workplace. Gosh, how hard can that be?

In Australia, the health minister said he was hearing from health staff including doctors and nurses that underreporting of assaults was widespread and that the published statistics did not cover what was actually happening in their hospitals.

The World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization jointly released this publication about assaults on healthcare workers. They claim that health professionals “frequently face situations of verbal or physical violence in the course of their duties, which has an impact on their work and health.”
The research paper is based on an anonymous and confidential online survey of 20,000 health professionals mostly in Latin American countries. 66.7% of respondents reported having suffered some form of aggression in the workplace in the past year up significantly from the last survey nearly 10 years ago.

In Toronto, Canada The Star newspaper’s story last July about rising assaults on nurses. Over the past three years, reports of violence on hospital staff by patients and families of patients have been on the rise according to the story, in some cases doubling, according to information provided to the Star. In an email to the Star, a UHN spokesperson said the increases are likely due to changing violent incident reporting requirements. There are similar increases at other Toronto-area hospitals, statistics show.  The numbers underscore the need for improvements to hospital staff safety measures, something the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has long been calling for to better protect healthcare providers.

At UHN, which includes Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital among others, there has been a consistent increase in reports of assault in the past three years. The number of reported violent incidents doubled in two years, jumping from 166 incidents in 2012 to 331 in 2014, according to data provided to the Star. In 2014, a total of 11 workers who were injured were unable return to work for their shift following the assault.

Sabre Mini Keychain Alarm
Sabre Mini Keychain Alarm

One way nurses can defend themselves is with this compact Sabre brand mini keychain alarm that has a loud 115dB siren which calls for help and scares off attackers. It also has a built-in bright LED flashlight that prevents fumbling for locks in the dark and easily attaches to backpacks, purses, keys, and more with the keychain fob.

We know some of our readers are nurses, so don’t be bashful, chime in with your thoughts on this topic.