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Violence: The Unseen Threat To Healthcare Workers

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2021 | Nurse And Healthcare Worker Injuries, Workers' Compensation |

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers face a long list of threats to their safety on a daily basis. To help patients, they risk infectious diseases, accidental needle sticks, repetitive motion injuries and more. However, one of the scariest threats they face is often not talked about: violence.

A recent incident at a Minnesota health clinic demonstrates just how real the threat of violence is for healthcare workers. In this incident, a patient who was unhappy with their care opened fire in the clinic, injuring four healthcare workers and killing one medical assistant.

Nurses And Other Healthcare Workers Are At Substantially Higher Risk Of Violence

According to an article from CBS, this is not an isolated incident. In fact, OSHA statistics show that nurses, nurse practitioners and other healthcare workers are at four times greater risk of workplace violence than workers in private industry.

Why Do Patients Attack?

When a person has to go in for medical care, they are typically not at their best. They are afraid and under a great deal of stress. On top of that, they may be medicated or something from a medical condition like dementia. The American Journal of Managed Care emphasizes that these are typically not criminals; these are patients who are not in their right mind when they commit assault against a nurse or another medical professional.

While there are certainly incidents like the aforementioned shooting in which a disgruntled patient takes premediated action to cause harm to caregivers, more commonly these situations involve someone coming out of anesthesia, being confused and lashing out in fear, or something along those lines. Perhaps they are people waiting in pain in the emergency room who are not acting as they typically would and attack a medical assistant or doctor. According to one expert, “The inpatient room, then the psychiatric unit, and the emergency department, in that order, is where most instances of violence occur.”

There are other factors that set the stage for workplace assaults and other forms of workplace violence. Some blame the healthcare system itself. The article also points out that the incidents frequently go unreported. Caregivers are empathetic to the plight of their patients and may not want them to get into trouble. They may see the threat of violence as just part of the job.

For similar reasons, medical facilities tend not to have particularly intense security. A bill was proposed in recent years to require facilities to enact measures to protect workers from the possibility of violent outbursts, but it did not pass. A similar bill will likely be proposed again in the future.

Workers’ Compensation For Victims Of Workplace Assault

Nurses and other healthcare workers who face the threat of violence should be aware that they may be eligible for workers’ compensation if they are hurt by a patient or any other party, including coworkers, while they are on the job. Minnesota workers’ compensation may cover injuries suffered in workplace attacks, workplace assaults and other incidents.