People who work in hospitals have always been among those most likely to be victims of workplace violence. Mentally ill, drunk or drugged patients can lash out. So can angry family members. Sometimes incidents of gang and domestic violence even spill over into hospital emergency rooms.
The last couple of years has seen an increase in violence against hospital employees. Now the American Hospital Association (AHA) is asking the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize the prosecution of those who assault or otherwise harm or interfere with hospital workers who are doing their job the way it has those who assault airline employees or cause disruption on flights. In fact, the head of the AHA has asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to make assaulting a health care worker a federal offense.
Nurses are often the victims of violence
People who work in health care, and particularly in hospitals, will likely agree with a recent study in which nearly two-thirds of nurses reported being either verbally or physically assaulted by patients or their families. Many would say that percentage seems low.
What we know is that workplace violence in the health care field has been rising for more than a decade. In fact, legislation is pending in Congress called the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. Unfortunately, like many bills that have passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, it hasn’t made it out of the Senate.
Nurses are often on the front lines of dealing with patients and families, so they’re often the victims of violence. This is one of the reasons about a third of nurses surveyed said they plan to leave their job before the end of this year. Burnout, low pay and long hours are among the other reasons cited for their dissatisfaction.
While assault and other violent acts are crimes, the resulting injuries are workplace injuries. That means you can and should seek workers’ compensation benefits to help with treatment expenses and payment for the time needed off work. This treatment could include psychological care in addition to medical care. Don’t settle for less than you’re entitled to receive as you recover.