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Nurses must be protected on the job

Nurses routinely suffer injuries from patients, visitors and families. Does that come as a surprise? Most likely, the answer is “yes.” However, recent studies show that nurses face constant danger of abuse from patients, families and other visitors. Whether the abuse is verbal or physical, it is unacceptable.

This issue is problematic for nurses, but it also has far-reaching consequences for clinics, hospitals and patients. When nurses cannot do their jobs because they are in danger, patient care may ultimately suffer as well. This is one more reason nurses need their employers and the legal system to make their jobs safer.

What can be done about these acts of violence?

A study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing revealed that nurses experience numerous incidences of violence on the job such as threats, yelling, cursing, kicking and grabbing. According to the Washington Post, nurses may also face serious physical violence, including stabbings, physical assault and sexual assault.

Nearly any patient or visitor may abuse or injure nursing staff, of course. However, the most dangerous types of patients include:

  • Emergency room patients
  • White male patients between the ages of 26 and 35
  • Patients under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Drug-seeking patients
  • Patients with dementia

Currently, there are no federal guidelines for nursing safety nationwide. It appears to be up to the states to enact legislation that would provide more protection for nurses, including making assault on a nurse a felony offense. Nurses are also asking for measures such as securing hospital furniture (so patients can’t throw it at them), improved lighting and escape routes so they can get away from dangerous situations.

In this largely female occupation—93 percent are women—nurses report that they often receive little respect from patients and families. People tend not to see nurses as heroes or fighters in the way that they perceive law enforcement and firefighters. Perhaps seeing nursing as a heroic and dangerous job is one step towards providing the necessary protection to keep them from being threatened and assaulted.

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