Nurses mount tougher fight against workplace assaults

In recent times, nurses have begun to draw more attention to the often-dangerous conditions in which they work--though the going has been slow. There's no question that nurses face big risks: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses and other personal care workers suffer 25 injuries annually resulting in days off from work for every 10,000 full-time workers. That's 12 times the rate of the overall private sector. But often, they say, healthcare leaders don't take it seriously.

The American Hospital Association says executives are very aware of the problem and are taking steps to address it, including expanding security staffing, increasing the use of surveillance cameras and providing training on how to deal with violent situations. However, nurses say that while some hospitals are supportive, far too many discourage nurses from discussing these assaults and do little to prevent them. Meanwhile, a national shortage of nurses makes things worse, as understaffed facilities have fewer hands on board to deal with such episodes. Some say that they're encouraged to simply quit if they're not willing to tolerate violent conditions.

Of late, however, nurse advocates have been working hard to focus attention on this problem, saying that their profession shouldn't be bullied into silence. For example, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a nursing union, has lobbied the state for laws that would increase penalties against violent patients and family members, and would require hospitals to beef up protections for workers. It has also conducted a number of surveys on violence against nurses. Meanwhile, other states are taking action. New Jersey and Oregon passed measures last year requiring healthcare facilities to assess workplace assault risks and develop programs to address these risks. In California, meanwhile, nurses say violence has been reduced by state laws mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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