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Nurses want Workplace Violence Solutions


Nov. 15 2019, Published 5:29 p.m. ET

It’s well known that nursing can be a dangerous profession. While those following that career path are used to it, many are vying that more needs to be done about it. Nurses, mainly those working in the emergency room, are now coming together to report more instances of physical violence and demanding more solutions from their employers. 

According to an AMN Healthcare survey, 41 percent of nurses said they have been victims of workplace violence, bullying, or incivility while 27 percent said they’ve witnessed it. A majority of nurses surveyed said their employer did not handle the situation well. It should be noted, however, that many in the profession believe these numbers could be skewed.

“I think that statistic is actually low, because most nurses who are assaulted don’t come forward with their stories,” Randee Litten, a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, California, told CBS News. “We have just kind of accepted it as part of our job, but now we are at the point where violence is becoming more and more aggressive, so we are trying to band together and report it more now.” 

Litten was badly assaulted herself once. While attempting to draw blood from a patient in order to clear them for the mental health facility, she was punched in the face and given a black eye. According to CBS, the issue of mental health and lack of resources is a main cause of violence in emergency rooms. “The ER has become the holding spot for mental health patients, so if a patient is a danger to us or others, they end up being housed in our emergency department for up to seven days,” she said. “Mental health hasn’t been invested in for years, and now we have a huge [increase] in the mental health population in California. There are no resources for them so they come to us.”  

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Another issue is that nurses are never trained how to deal with these situations. Oftentimes, the only training comes along with experiencing it for yourself. Anna Dermenchyan, a retired nurse who is now on the board of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, told CBS, “[violence] is happening very frequently in the acute and critical care populations where you think patients are too sick. Most incidents involve patients and their families, but it can also come from coworkers, other nurses and physicians.” She continued, “They don’t teach it in nursing school or medical school. A lot of time is spent on clinical content, but when you get out there in the workplace, this is one of the dangers.” 

As aforementioned, the main issue here is the lack of reporting. Dermenchyan believes this issue is rooted in the fact that the medical profession is male-dominated. She attributes the #MeToo movement to giving nurses a sense of power to report issues. “Incidents might have taken place, but they felt they had to stay quiet,” she explained. “But #MeToo has given rise to more reporting and people being open and honest on Twitter, and saying ‘this is not okay.’”

These instances of violence have led higher “burnout” rates. According to Dr. Cole Edmonson, 21 percent of nurses leave the profession due to these instances. He told CBS, “This to me is an unacceptable loss to the profession and society – that any nurse should leave because of the behavior of a colleague or patient.”  

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