The violent workplace
Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
Last week a nurse, aide and police chief were killed at an Ohio nursing home, along with the gunman, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. While it’s impossible to prevent all tragic events, especially those involving an armed assailant entering the building despite an order of protection against him, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.
According to a 2014 Scientific American article, “Health-care workers experience the most nonfatal workplace violence compared to other professions by a wide margin, with attacks on them accounting for almost 70 percent of all nonfatal workplace assaults causing days away from work in the U.S., according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
The article goes on to discuss the institutional acceptance of violence against nurses, the lack of violence prevention training and the implication from management that the employees were responsible for the assaults against them.
While the Scientific American article focused on nurses in a hospital setting, a 2016 study of nursing staff in long-term care facilities finds that “65% of the participants had experienced workplace violence while 41% believed that management shows little or no concern for their safety.”
I’m reminded of the many times over the years that residents have hit, spit on and otherwise abused nursing staff, and a team meeting was convened or a resident transferred to the psych hospital only after assaulting the doctor. If we want to retain staff, we need to convey that the safety of each individual is important regardless of their stature within the organization.
We also might hypothesize that people who have grown up in homes without violence are unlikely to stay in positions where they feel endangered; similarly, the staff members who stay have some level of comfort with aggressive behavior, perhaps due to exposure to domestic violence as children. Research on the “cycle of violence” indicates that childhood exposure increases the likelihood of violent relationships as an adult.
If that hypothesis is true, it becomes even more crucial for the facility to set the standard that violence is not “normal” and that the safety of those in their community is paramount.