Nurses, emergency department workers often targets of violence

Violence against front-line hospital workers is a growing problem across the country and the globe, specifically against nurses and emergency department workers.

The number of violent incidents involving hospital workers jumped 37 percent in the past three years, according to a recent survey by the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety.

In April, two nurses were injured in separate stabbing incidents, leaving one of them in critical condition. Nurses at Boston-area hospitals reported being punched, kicked and even sexually assaulted while on the job, physical pains exacerbated by a lack of support from hospital management, CBS Boston reported.

"There was a pretty high-level person that said no, that's part of the job," Tricia Casey, a nurse of 26 years who works in the psychiatric unit at Cape Cod Hospital and was sexually assaulted on the job, told the news outlet. "I put a lot into my job. I care about it. I care about my patients and that made me feel like I was just not worth very much." Cape Cod Hospital said it provides training, support, security and supervision to employees to provide a safe environment for staff, although they could not comment on Casey's specific case, in a statement to CBS Boston.

A 2013 study found one-third of nurses worldwide had been exposed to physical violence and bullying in the workplace, while one-third reported injuries and a quarter experienced sexual harassment.

In the U.S., 30 states passed laws making it a felony to assault hospital workers, according to The Lancet, and individual hospitals protect their staff by offering education programs and training.

Nurses should constantly scan the environment for mounting patient frustration associated with long ED wait times, intoxication and drug-seeking behavior, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Controlled access, managing the number of bedside visitors, panic buttons and bulletproof glass are some environmental interventions that can keep staff safe as well. Staff should consider flagging files of patients who were violent in the past, according to the article.

To learn more:
- here's the CBS Boston article
- read the survey
- check out the study
- here's The Lancet story