‘Punched, kicked, spit on’: Va. health care workers say they face more violence since pandemic

Doctors at Virginia College of Emergency Physicians have expressed frustration at what they say are increasing incidents of violence at work urge Federal lawmakers support a US Senate bill that would provide greater protections for health care workers.

“I have been assaulted by patients hundreds of times – I have been punched, kicked, spat on, objects thrown at me and weapons pointed at me. All from patients I am trying to save their lives,” one physician who has served as an emergency physician for three decades wrote in a letter to Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. , Democrats of Virginia.

Emergency doctor, whose name was not mentioned in message, not alone. Bureau of Labor Statistics Says That 70 percent of private sector workers who “experienced trauma from non-fatal violence in the workplace” in 2019 worked in health care or related social assistance roles, making them five times more likely to experience violence at work than others.

Q 4182The Workplace Violence Prevention Act for Health Care and Social Service Workers, will direct the Department of Labor to establish enforceable standards to ensure health care and workplaces for social services implementing violence prevention, tracking and response systems. A companion bill passed in the House of Representatives in 2021. In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation Make the threat to injure or kill health care workers a first degree misdemeanour.

There is no comprehensive statewide data set on workplace violence in health care in Virginia, but the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association say violent attacks on health care workers are on the increase. VHHA created a Workplace safety team In 2020 the data is collected to Finding a baseline measure of injuries at the state level, as well as “sharing educational resources and best practices” to reduce these injuries, according to VHHA spokesperson Julian Walker.

Statewide trends track national data, according to Tony Ardabil, chief operating officer of the Clinical Foundation at Inova, a major health care provider in Northern Virginia with 18,000 employees and more than two million patients annually. In 2021, 648 incidents of physical violence in the workplace were reported within their hospital system and Ardabil assumes that many smaller incidents went unreported. By one NIH institutes EstimationNearly 90 percent of accidents are not officially reported.

She said violence escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the long-running trend. Nationwide rates of assault on health care workers double In the past ten years and thereabouts 40 percent of hospital workers have experienced physical violence in the past year. else exploratory study Put this number at 78 percent.

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“I think the pressures of COVID, the stress of the mental health crisis in our communities, have all contributed to the behavior that we have seen across the country,” Ardabil said. “Most of the violent incidents that are reported are carried out by mental health visitors or patients – people who are frustrated, and they are already dealing with a problem in life.”

Ardabil was martyred Separation The state’s mental health system as another potential factor in the escalation of violent incidents. Staff shortages and overcrowding in publicly funded psychiatric hospitals have increasingly forced patients to stay in local emergency rooms rather than state facilities, where they may not receive adequate care. Some private hospitals have dedicated mental health units where patients can receive appropriate care.

“What we are not equipped to deal with is very physically abusive mental health patients,” Ardabil said. “The state has closed the beds in mental health institutions where these patients should be, so there is no real good solution for these patients at the moment.”

The workload and stress caused by the pandemic has pushed many nurses out of the field, resulting in nursing Shortage in Virginia. Ardabil said that while workplace violence does not appear in exit interviews as a primary reason for leaving jobs, it may be a contributing factor to worker burnout.

It is also common for family members of patients to express anger at the workers. The highest concentrations of violence occur within emergency and behavioral health departments, with nurses present in the emergency room four times More likely to be assaulted than those in the other divisions, but Ardabil emphasized that there is no typical situation.

“It could be situations really all over the map. It could be a confused patient hitting someone in their confusion, it could be someone hitting someone on purpose because of their anger.”

The daily threat of violence was underlined by two attacks on hospitals earlier this month. First, a shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma that killed four people, then a stabbing at a medical center in Los Angeles, California where three medical professionals were injured. In response, the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association issued a statement expressing concern and highlighting steps hospitals were taking.

“Unfortunately, hospitals and the people who work in them live with the daily reality that healthcare professionals face an increased risk of being victims of violence in the workplace,” the statement read. “In response to these conditions, hospitals across Virginia have implemented a range of employee safety and prevention programs including alert systems, safety protocols, enhanced security personnel presence, and more to protect patients, family, visitors and staff.”

Meanwhile, emergency department doctors continue to push for better working conditions “Physical, verbal abuse and violence towards all emergency department staff is out of control. This bill is a good start, but we need more,” read another message.

“We sit ducks.”

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