Saturday, April 16, 2011

Health Care Workers and Workplace Violence

According to Medical New Today, in September 2010, a nurse was attacked and beaten by a psychiatric patient at Franklin Hospital in New York. She suffered facial fractures requiring multiple surgeries as part of her recovery.

Unfortunately, this type of on-the job violence faced by nurses and other health care nurses is very common. According to studies, 430,000 nurses are victims of on-the-job violence each year, and OSHA estimates that 48% of all non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults and violence occurred in healthcare and social service settings. Sadly, there were also 69 homicides in the health services between 1996 and 2000. Among all healthcare workers, nurses are most likely to be assaulted, and most assaults occurred in hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities.

In 2000, health service workers overall suffered injuries causing days away from work as a result of violent assault at a rate of 9.3 per 10,000 full-time workers. For social workers, the rate was 15 per 10,000 workers, and for personal care facility workers, the rate was 25 per 10,000. In the overall private sector, the injury rate due to violent assault is 2 per 10,000.

The rate of violence in the health care field is actually much higher than OSHA’s figures represent. According to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey for 1993 to 1999, the average annual rate non-fatal violent crime for physicians was 16.2 per 1,000, for nurses, the rate was 21.9 per 1,000, for mental health professionals, the rate was 68.2 per 1,000, and for mental health custodial workers, the rate was 69 per 1,000.

OSHA notes that the actual number of incidents is probably much higher. Violence is likely to be underreported, due in part to the perception within the health care industry that assaults and violence are part of the job. Underreporting may also be due in part to a lack of institutional reporting policies or fear on the part of the employee that reporting violence may reflect poor job performance.

Violence can occur within any area of the health care industry. The health care industry includes public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, home health care services, outpatient care centers, ambulatory care centers, and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Occupations within this field include, but are not limited to, physicians, surgeons, dentists, dental hygienists and assistants, registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), licensed vocational nurses (LVN), physician’s assistants, social workers, physical therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, radiologists, audiologists, chiropractors, dieticians and nutritionists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, radiologists, technicians, emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics, nursing aids, certified nursing assistants (CNA), home health aides, orderlies and attendants, occupational therapists, medical assistants, personal aides and home health care aides.

Violence is NOT a normal part of the job, nor is it acceptable. If you’re injured at work, even if it seems relatively minor, it is very important that you report it!

I represented a woman who did in-home health care. Over the course of a few years, she had several separate instances where she was assaulted by the clients she was caring for. At the time, she didn’t really think she was injured, but she started to develop worsening low back pain. Finally, while restraining a client who was demonstrating violent behaviors, her back pain suddenly became severe. Within a few months, she had to undergo a two-level fusion in her low back. All of the relatively small injuries she sustained over a few years contributed to significant wear and tear in the discs in her low back, and the final incident, although it was relatively minor, was the proverbial straw that literally broke her back.

Protect your health and your livelihood by reporting your injuries!

Meuser & Associate has represented dozens and dozens of Minnesota health care workers who have sustained on-the-job injuries as a result of violence, or otherwise. Health care workers who sustain injuries arising out of and in the course and scope of their employment may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights, and how to protect yourself if you’re injured on the job, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to speak with Ron Meuser or Jen Yackley.


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails