The rate of hospital employees intentionally injured on the job at the hands of another person is significantly higher than the rate across all private industries. “Just going into work is a high-risk endeavor,” said Lisa Wolf of the Emergency Nurses Association.
The rate of violent incidents at hospitals appears to be growing, the Chicago Tribune reports. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the rate of hospital employees intentionally injured on the job at the hands of another person is significantly higher than the rate across all private industries. In 2015, there were 8.5 cases of injuries per 10,000 full-time hospital workers, versus 1.7 cases for all private industries. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration guide on addressing violence in hospitals found that 70 to 74 percent of workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 happened in health care settings. In May, two nurses at a hospital in Geneva, Il., were taken hostage by a jail inmate after he got hold of the gun of a corrections officer guarding him. One of the nurses was sexually assaulted before the inmate was fatally shot by police. Less than a month later a convicted murderer in a Joliet, Il., hospital for treatment used a makeshift weapon to hold a corrections officer and a nursing assistant hostage.
Facilities across the U.S. have been affected. In June, a disgruntled doctor opened fire at a New York City hospital, killing another doctor and injuring several other people before taking his own life. In 2015, at a Boston hospital, a man shot and killed the surgeon who’d operated on his mother before she died. Nurses deal with more minor incidents of physical aggression or verbal abuse on an almost daily basis. Many have stories of intoxicated or delusional patients who spit, claw and hit, or angry family members who threaten lawsuits or even lives. Nursing advocates say, aggression toward hospital workers has been chalked up to just an unfortunate part of the job, and patients are rarely held accountable. A movement to change this culture is gaining momentum, with nurses’ groups speaking out at protests and on social media, and lobbying for legislation that aims to curtail violence against health care workers. “Just going into work is a high-risk endeavor,” said Lisa Wolf of the Emergency Nurses Association. “You’re going to work and people are in some ways feeling like they can kill you.” Nurses’ groups would like to see more staffing and more training.