Violence against health care workers is becoming widespread in Kentucky and throughout the U.S. Between 2002 and 2013, incidents of serious workplace violence were four times more common in the health care sector than in the private sector, according to OSHA (by serious, OSHA means incidents that result in at least one day off). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2017, the rate of intentional injuries among health care employees was 9.1 per 10,000 workers, whereas the rate in private industries was 1.9 per 10,000 workers.
There have been many cases of health care workers being beaten or being attacked with weapons like knives, screwdrivers and box cutters. Lighters, matches and pepper spray can also be used to inflict harm. Spitting and name-calling are also considered instances of workplace violence.
Hospitals can implement various safety measures, but each facility must strike its own balance between security concerns and having easy access for patients and their visitors. What would suffice for a rural hospital may not suffice for an urban medical center. Generally, hospitals could consider having badge access for certain areas; posting guards at the lobby and exits; installing panic buttons, security cameras and metal detectors; limiting guest hours; and providing de-escalation training. The nurses and other clinicians who are the front-line workers should be consulted in the development of any safety plan.
Even with heightened safety, though, health care workers cannot always avoid dealing with angry patients or former ones. When workers are injured on the job, they have the option of filing for workers' compensation benefits that can cover medical expenses and a portion of lost income. They may want a lawyer's assistance throughout the process.