Health care workers spend their lives caring for others, yet they often fall victim to workplace violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the risk of violence in health care facilities nationwide is four times higher than in other private industries. Despite new laws that mandated additional safety measures in California hospitals, workplace violence continues.
The new law requires California hospitals to report all assaults. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health says almost 23,000 instances of violence against health care workers have been reported since the law came into effect in 2017. The death of a jail nurse in 2014 gave rise to the new law, but workers are frustrated because the number of assaults in 2019 was over 10% higher than the previous year.
Where do assaults take place?
A nurse witnessed a patient throwing objects around in the emergency room before moving out to the parking lot and assaulting a police officer. She says it is unacceptable for nursing staff to put their safety on the line while caring for others. According to reported data, assaults took place in the following areas of health care facilities:
- Emergency rooms
- Inpatient rooms
- Behavioral health units
- Parking lots
What must health care workers endure?
While most of the assaults involve patients, family members or other visitors have reportedly assaulted nurses in some cases. Antagonistic behavior and assaults could include the following:
- Pulling, pushing, slapping, striking, punching or kicking
- Grabbing, biting, scratching, hair pulling, choking or spitting
- Health care workers are especially vulnerable in the following life-threatening assaults:
- Assaults with hospital furniture or medical equipment
- Assaults with other weapons like knives or firearms
- Sexual assaults, attempted rape and rape
To comply with the new law requirements, hospitals must upgrade safety and security, such as installing alarms and more. However, less than one-quarter of all California’s healthcare facilities have upgraded security after assaults on workers. Those that have not taken the required steps say upgrading security is expensive, while they receive no additional funding.
Health care workers in California are typically eligible for benefits through the state-regulated workers’ compensation insurance program. However, coverage of medical expenses and a portion of lost wages may not be sufficient, considering the long-term emotional trauma victims might experience. Fortunately, they might obtain additional damage recovery through the civil justice system. A third-party personal injury claim against the attacker might lead to a monetary judgment to cover past and future losses related to the assault.