Workplace violence is rising in many industries, and the medical industry has experienced significant increases. From September 2021 to September 2022, healthcare workers experienced a 57% increase, but from March 2021, the increase was well over 100%.
In fact, over 5,200 nurses missed work in 2022 due to assaults at work. That’s 57 people per day. Unfortunately, Minnesota is no exception.
MN hospital staff assaults tripled from 90 in 2019 to 280 in 2020. In addition, 75% of surveyed nurses witnessed or were victims of violence in the last two years, and nearly half never reported it.
The increase in violence is due to hospital staffing challenges, and many ER departments and other units have to house patients who suffer from substance abuse or mental health issues due to overcapacity, delaying treatment for other patients. Some hospitals have also put safety programs on hold due to staff shortages and COVID-19 pandemic responses. In addition, many patients lost trust in medical professionals due to contradicting COVID-19 information.
To prevent violence against medical professionals, hospitals need clear reporting processes, and the hospital needs to involve law enforcement. Hospitals should encourage their staff to file assault charges. Hospitals should have procedures for sharing information about potentially violent patients, and staff should receive extensive training on potential violence recognition and de-escalation techniques. However, hospitals should implement staff support programs and increase security and alarm systems.
Several pieces of legislation, including the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act and Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employee Act, which would criminalize intimidation and violence against medical staff, await congressional approval.
The rise in violence against medical care providers is preventable, but it requires legal and institutional initiatives.