Nursing Safety
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Nursing Safety

September 30, 2019

Anyone who has been around the nursing industry knows that nurses have a pretty tough job. They are responsible for administering the best possible care to their patients, but there are times when their own personal safety becomes an important factor. The healthcare industry is now acknowledging that attacks and abuse against nurses is a serious issue.

Reasons for Increased Violence

While violence in the workplace is not a new occurrence, issues have come up in the healthcare field involving nurses being attacked and abused, whether physically or verbally, by patients or family members of patients. These incidents are becoming more common, putting both nurses and the patients they care for at risk. Mary Hamilton, Director of Client Services for Prolink, states that she sees the increase in healthcare facility incidents as a result of a shift in society, where violence and abuse have become more common. People are simply disregarding the fact that they are in a hospital or care facility when tempers get out of control.

There are several reasons as to why physical altercations would occur in a hospital setting, particularly in a tense environment like an emergency room or intensive care unit. In situations where a sudden accident or illness has occurred, tensions and emotions can run extremely high and at a very quick rate. 

There are additional factors to consider when looking at the problem of violence against nurses. One of these factors is understaffing. During very busy times, lack of staff can mean patients or family members of patients becoming frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of care. This can drive them to violent or abusive behavior toward a healthcare professional. Insufficient security has also contributed to an increase in attacks on nurses. When security is more present, the rate of violence goes down significantly.

Attacks on nurses and staff are not limited to psychiatric facilities like many people may believe. However, many facilities that specialized in psychiatric care have been closing over the past couple of decades, either due to lack of funding or other circumstances. With these facilities ceasing operation, there is still patient demand. This means that people that would normally go to one of these now closed psychiatric treatment centers for an acute crisis are instead checking in to emergency rooms at any general hospital. Along with this, many hospitals have not been able to catch up to the increased demand caused by dedicated psychiatric facilities shutting down, meaning they have less space for additional patients that should really be getting specialized psychiatric care. Workers at regular hospitals may not have the proper training or supplies to deal with psychiatric patients, which can lead to further incidents.

Additional Training

It should be noted that hospitals have acknowledged that safety concerns for nurses exist and are increasing, and they are working to make changes to ensure that staff members are trained to handle volatile situations, whenever they may arise. However, in the heat of the moment when a patient may become hostile, it can be difficult to really be prepared to handle such a situation. This is why nurses will likely be required to go through training to teach them how to deal with patients and their family members in order to diffuse situations that can become violent. This includes being able to communicate with patients and their family members, as well as listening to and addressing their concerns. When a patient or their family member feel they aren’t being heard, they can become highly frustrated and start to lose control of their emotions. Learning how to remain calm with someone is very important when it comes to being able to de-escalate a situation before it becomes a safety concern.

Being Proactive

A good way to avoid violent incidents is for nurses and staff to be proactive in handling situations that have the potential to turn hostile. By understanding how people react to certain situations, hospital staff can identify areas where a patient or their family may find reason to be upset or frustrated as time goes on. Having a member of the hospital staff make themselves available to the patient and their family members can let them know that their concerns are valid and that they are being heard. By simply giving the patient peace of mind that they are important can do a lot to prevent escalation of a situation, since a lot of attacks are the result of patients or family members feeling like they aren’t getting the care or support they need. Having nurses or other members of staff reassuring the patient that they are in good hands can go a long way to maintaining a calm and peaceful environment.

A Safe Future for Our Nurses

Over the decades, our society has seen an increase in violence, which is making its way into the healthcare industry. Safety for nurses has become an issue as threats of abuse and violence have increased toward hospital staff. The fact that nurse safety is being recognized as a concern is an important step into setting up regulations and providing training to nurses and hospital staff in order to deal with situations that can become violent or hostile. By working together with both nurses and patients, steps can be made to ensure the safety of everyone involved so that patients can receive the care they need from nurses in a safe environment.

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