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Healthcare workers susceptible to workplace assaults

Healthcare workers are at high risk of facing violent assaults in the workplace. Since nurses and aides typically have the most regular contact with patients, they represent the group of healthcare workers at the highest risk for workplace violence. However, there are other likely victims such as emergency response personnel, hospital safety officers and other healthcare providers such as physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists and social workers.

Physical attacks involving punching, hair-pulling, kicking and stabbing often are the result of patients and, sometimes, their family members being out of control or feeling frustrated over the circumstances. Violence usually occurs when healthcare workers have increased interaction with patients in situations such as at mealtimes, during visiting hours and when transporting patients.

Frequently occur in psychiatric wards, emergency rooms

Reasons for violent assaults vary. They can happen when patients are involuntarily admitted or when limits are implemented on a patient’s diet. And the injuries inflicted upon healthcare workers run the gamut from minor and serious to those that lead to permanent disabilities, psychological trauma and even death.

Violent assaults can occur in any area of a health care facility, but they most frequently happen in:

  • Psychiatric wards involving vulnerable patients
  • Emergency rooms involving hysterical and trauma-filled patients
  • Waiting rooms where upset family members take out their frustrations on healthcare staff
  • Geriatric units where elderly patients feel threatened or suffer from cognitive disorders

Healthcare facilities must do their utmost to protect all employees, especially the ones working with patients. And as a healthcare worker, you must protect yourself by remaining alert when working and dealing with patients and visitors. Enroll in safety training programs and understand policies, procedures and information about workplace violence prevention.