We do not think of nurses as being especially at risk of bodily harm while on the job, but unfortunately this is a very real problem.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals are at a high risk of experiencing violence or assault while at work. Not only does this have an effect on those in the healthcare field, but it impacts the care that patients receive. If nurses feel threatened, have been injured, have been forced to take time off work due to violent incidents, or have been emotionally or psychologically traumatized, the care that they give to patients will probably be compromised in some way.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes workplace violence as “any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace. Violence includes overt and covert behaviors ranging in aggressiveness from verbal harassment to murder.” (NIOSH 1996)
Why are nurses at risk?
Because nurses work so closely with patients, they are at an increased risk of injuries by patients, but also by visitors or other nurses. Injuries inflicted by patients include bites, scratches, assaults from being hit, kicked, or beaten. The Emergency Nurses Association reported that in 2009 more than 50% of emergency room nurses had experienced violence inflicted by patients. They also found that in the last three years 25% of emergency center nurses had experienced more than 20 violent incidents.
In 2009 there were 2,050 nonfatal violent acts and assaults on RNs that resulted in the nurses needing at least 4 days off of work. The data also shows that there were 8 nurses who were fatally injured on the job from 2003-2009. All 8 of the nurses who died were working at private facilities.
What protections are in place?
While there are no universal federal protections in place at this time, some states have taken the initiative to enact legislation that addresses this issue. Some states mandate comprehensive violence prevention programs and some increase penalties for those who are found guilty of committing a violent act against a nurse.
Missouri is not currently a state that has implemented any of these legislative actions protecting nurses and other healthcare workers.
In states that have not passed legislation requiring additional protections be given to healthcare workers, any systems that are implemented are voluntary.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation
If you are in the healthcare field and have been injured by a violent incident at work, contact a workers’ compensation attorney to learn about your options. Nurses have a lot to contend with. They must provide quality care in the face of threats and harassment from both patients and other healthcare workers. This can take a major toll both physically and emotionally or psychologically.
If the injuries or emotional trauma you have suffered has caused you to spend time away from work you should make sure that you are getting the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. An experienced Missouri workers’ compensation attorney can help you to understand your options and get the compensation you deserve.
To speak with a trusted St. Louis workers’ compensation lawyer,
call the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300.
photo credit: Mark Coggins