WASHINGTON, D.C. — Workplace violence is on the rise for nurses at hospitals across the country, according to data from the largest union of registered nurses. It’s now calling for action to keep these RNs safe and on the job.
They’ve been punched, kicked, bitten, beaten and choked. They’ve been stabbed and shot. Some have been killed.
A survey revealed workplace violence against nurses is increasing.
“The stress level in a hospital right now as a working nurse is off the charts,” Jean Ross, who has been a nurse for almost fifty years, said.
She recalled an elderly patient assaulting her.
“Apparently, they had left his cane, his walking cane, in the bed with him and he bopped me over the head with it,” she described. “You hit yourself in the head, there will be blood, lots of blood and there was.”
Ross is also the president of National Nurses United. The union surveyed 2,575 nurses. 48% of them reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence. That’s more than double the percentage from just about one year earlier. In March of 2021, only 22% reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence.
The union is now calling for action to keep these RNs safe and on the job.
“It is devastating,” said Jane Thomason focuses on workplace health and safety for NNU.
She explained nurses said short staffing contributes here.
“When there’s not enough nurses, techs, aides, housekeeping staff, dietary staff, that means that nurses and other healthcare workers don’t have the ability to recognize escalating situations,” she said.
The union is also pushing for legislation for OSHA to require healthcare employers to create plans to prevent and respond to these incidents. Right now, that is voluntary. A bill passed the House but hasn’t been taken up by Senate committees yet.
Some also suggest creating harsher penalties for those who assault nurses, but NNU does not support that idea. Leaders believe that would be criminalizing the behavior of a patient who might be struggling.
“Something has to be done,” Ross added. “We need a workforce in this country of good, dedicated nurses who aren’t afraid for their lives.”
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