Members of the National Nurses United union are joining a growing number of industry voices that decry the increasing amount of violence that healthcare workers face on a daily basis, reports ABC News' Tampa, Florida, affiliate.
During a protest it organized on Tuesday in Tampa, participants called violence toward nurses "an epidemic." The union recently helped draft legislation in Florida that would standardize workplace-violence prevention and train healthcare staff to recognize and report incidents, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Reporting incidents is a major barrier to prevention, with recent research indicating that many healthcare workers under-report violence because it is inconvenient and they accept such conditions as part of the job, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
But nurses at Tuesday's rally wanted to make it clear that such conditions aren't acceptable.
"We are just here to say it's not OK," intensive care unit nurse Louise Eastty told ABC News. "We are here to help. We are here to heal. We are not here to be hurt."
In response to escalating violence on their campuses, an increasing number of hospitals have formed their own police departments, according to FierceHealthcare, eschewing standard security personnel for beefed-up corps of officers who have the power of arrest on the facilities' grounds. The move comes amid recent reports that government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have stepped in to take hospitals to task for failing to adequately address workplace violence.
While violence can be directed at all types of staff members and even at visitors and patients, nurses are vulnerable targets because they work so closely with patients, Kim Scott, another Florida ICU nurse told ABC News.
"[Family members] may want someone to be doing more than what they are doing," she said. "They are frustrated. The nurse is the one they see first. The nurse is at the bedside."
Scott says she's been hit, pushed, had her hair pulled and had patients grab things from her, though other nurses have fared even worse: In addition to the routine verbal abuse they face, this year the media has reported multiple incidents of nurse stabbings and one nurse was attacked by a metal-bar-wielding patient.
In addition to prevention efforts taken by hospitals, states have also attempted to use policy to stem the rising tide of violence, with 30 passing laws to make it a felony to assault hospital workers, FierceHealthcare has reported.