It’s disturbing to hear that health care workers, those tasked with the essential work of treating those typically in a most vulnerable condition, are increasingly targets of violence. To say it’s unacceptable is stating the obvious, and words are only going to go so far. Recent action by the Connecticut Hospital Association, which represents 27 of Connecticut’s acute-care hospitals, should help put those words into action.
A recent Record-Journal story highlighted the serious nature of developments, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicate instances of workplace violence injury are five times as likely to affect the health care and social services industries than workers overall. A UConn Health nurse told the R-J that in four years in the emergency room she’s seen coworkers attacked — some, for example, requiring stitches after being punched in the face. The nurse said she’d had a knife pulled on her, and a urinal thrown at her.
“There’s not a day goes by that we don’t come into the emergency room and know that we are going to be facing some kind of violence, whether it be physical or whether it be verbal abuse that we take from patients,” said Teresa Marx.
Counteracting this trend has to start somewhere, and for Connecticut hospitals that entails adopting a code of conduct that prohibits, as the R-J story noted, “aggressive or violent behavior, threats, abusive language, discriminatory language, sexual harassment and weapons.” Other than being asked to leave, consequences for violating the policy are not listed in the policy.
Yet it’s considered significant because it establishes the importance of a safe environment for workers.
“There is a shortage of health care workers,” said Ena Williams, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Yale New Haven Hospital. “We have expertise, we have knowledge, we have skills, we have tools, we have talents, we have abilities, but we can’t do that to the best of our ability if we’re constantly being bombarded with the kinds of behaviors that we face in our communities.”
Those who work in emergency rooms and other environments where interaction with patients is routine deserve to feel confident they can perform their work without being threatened or subject to violence. It’s too bad a policy establishing that has to be enacted, but now that it has it can be seen as an important step, an important statement of support.