Healthcare Workers Face Increasing Risk of Workplace Violence

Healthcare workers face a significant risk of job-related violence, which has been on the rise for nearly a decade. While mainstream news tends to focus on workplace homicides, most of the workplace violence incidents are non-fatal, yet result in serious injuries. Between 2011 and 2013, assaults on healthcare workers comprise 10-11% of serious workplace injuries (involving days away from work), compared to 3% of injuries in the private sector ( OSHA also notes that research has found workplace violence is underreported—suggesting that the actual rates may be much higher. 

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2018, healthcare workers are five times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall. This affects workers not just physically, but mentally as well, contributing to burnout and worsening turnover. More staggering is the thought these statistics were before the pandemic. 

As violence against healthcare workers continues to rise, more hospitals are addressing ways to ensure their staff feel safe in the workplace. 

In an open letter to the community, Oneida Health CEO Gene Morreale addressed the increasing issue of unruly patients. In the statement, Morreale said the health system, which serves around 100,000 patients, had seen 40 incidents of patient aggression, but said many more often go unreported. He emphasized that despite signs across the hospital acknowledging the severity of the consequences for assaulting and harassing staff and training staff in de-escalation techniques, the aggression has continued. 

Another New York health system, Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown, has dealt with similar challenges and in June implemented a panic button for staff. The Bluetooth-operated button system represents the first in the nation. When signaled, the duress alarm will alert employees and security personnel as to the location of the worker in danger. Other hospitals in the nation have followed suit and equipped staff with panic buttons. 

“The other day I talked to an Oneida Health nurse who was injured by an angry patient. The injury was not just the physical bruise but also the emotional injury, both of which were very evident,” wrote Mr. Morreale. “Until you are verbally or physically abused, it is difficult to appreciate the harm as well as the toll it takes on these hardworking, talented staff.”

As workplace violence in healthcare continues to multiply and adversely impact a current state of burnout and staffing shortages, now is the time to act. Please join MLMIC Insurance Company and the attorneys at Fager Amsler Keller and Schoppmann, LLP, in early 2022 for an educational event on disruptive behaviors. Watch the MLMIC Insider for details as they become available.