Take a moment to visualize the most dangerous professions in our country. You may see a firefighter charging into a burning house or a police officer diffusing a hostile situation. You may even think of an electrical worker fixing a broken-down power line.
You’re less likely to picture a scrubs-clad nurse talking to the family of a patient to help them understand a complex treatment plan. That’s understandable: most people may not associate working in a hospital or clinic with overtly dangerous scenarios. As it turns out, the healthcare industry is one of the most dangerous places to work in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 60 percent of all nonfatal assaults and violent acts by a person occurred in the healthcare industry.
What’s more, this data is limited to completed incident reports by healthcare workers. In reality, many incidents go unreported for a number of reasons. A nurse making the rounds at a hospital may get slapped by a patient and decide that the amount of time it would take to fill out a report isn’t worth the time she or he could be helping another patient.
Unions in California have been working for years to address the crisis of unsafe working conditions for healthcare providers as well as their patients. Coalitions including the California Safe Care Standard and unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Nurses Association (CNA), and United Nurses Association of California, Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) have made an incredible amount of progress with the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) to adopt new workplace safety regulations that ensure hospitals and clinics become safer for healthcare workers, patients, and their families.
This couldn’t come at a more important time. A few weeks ago, a nurse was shot by a patient while on duty at a mental health clinic at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South LA. Last year, two nurses were violently attacked on the same day at two different hospitals in Southern California. Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents and establish the necessity for meaningful reforms in our healthcare industry. Stress of workplace violence can also lead to low morale amongst healthcare professionals, sick-leave, and lower productivity. All of this leads to higher turnover amongst staff, further exacerbating staff shortages in our hospitals and clinics.
Delivering compassionate and efficient care to Californians is something that should be appreciated and regularly applauded. When our doctors, nurses, and hospital staff stand up to bring attention to unsafe working conditions, it’s imperative for our state leaders and regulators to listen.
You can find out more about workplace violence facing healthcare professionals at California Safe Care Standard.