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Rising Workplace Violence Against Nurses: A Pressing Issue in the Healthcare Sector

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Mason Walker
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Rising Workplace Violence Against Nurses: A Pressing Issue in the Healthcare Sector

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In a recent survey by the National Nurses United (NNU), it was revealed that there has been a significant surge in the instances of workplace violence experienced by U.S. nurses in post-pandemic times. The findings of the survey, which included 914 nurses from 48 states and the District of Columbia, are a cause for serious concern, highlighting the urgency to implement effective prevention strategies.

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The Alarming Findings of the NNU Survey

The NNU survey found that 46% of the respondents reported an increase in workplace violence, with 82% experiencing at least one type of violence at work in 2023. The violence experienced ranged from physical threats to lack of security measures and strict visitation policies that led to family members lashing out. Over one-third of the respondents even considered leaving the profession due to the violence they faced at work.

The impact of workplace violence on the mental health of nurses was also striking. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents reported experiencing anxiety, fear, or increased vigilance due to violence at work. This highlights the urgent need for employers to take these incidents seriously and take necessary measures to protect their employees.

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Employers Falling Short of Providing Safety Measures

The survey also revealed that many employers are failing to provide adequate training, clear incident reporting methods, and staff to respond to incidents of workplace violence. Only 29.5 percent of nurses report that their employer has staff available at all times to respond to workplace violence. Even more concerning, a mere 17.0 percent of nurses reported that their employer places additional staff to reduce the risk of violence.

Call for Comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Standard

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NNU President Jean Ross, RN, has called for a national enforceable OSHA standard to protect healthcare workers from workplace violence. This is in alignment with the union's strong support for a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard, as well as the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

Impact on Recruitment and Retention of Nurses

Workplace violence has had a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of nurses, exacerbating the staffing crisis in the healthcare sector. According to the NNU survey, 6 in 10 RNs reported having changed or left their job or profession due to workplace violence. This escalating issue is not only detrimental to healthcare workers but also to the overall healthcare system, which estimated a cost of $8.7 billion in 2017 due to incidents of violence.

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Proactive Measures to Address Workplace Violence

Addressing workplace violence requires proactive measures, including the implementation of unit-specific workplace violence prevention plans and ensuring appropriate staffing levels. Technology, such as personal panic buttons and video analysis, are being used to detect and handle potential dangers early on. The need for an independent health sector safety council, funded by employers and including union members and employers, has also been emphasized.

Workplace violence against nurses is a silent epidemic that needs immediate attention. It is imperative for employers, policy makers, and healthcare professionals to work together to create a safe and secure environment for those who dedicate their lives to caring for others.

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