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Violence Against Healthcare Workers: Yet Another Epidemic

Violence Against Healthcare Workers: Yet Another Epidemic

At Valley Health, each of our over 6,000 associates, 750 physicians and advanced practice providers are caregivers. We use the word caregiver to describe ourselves because even though we aren’t all nurses, physicians, or other healthcare professionals, we each play a role and have dedicated ourselves to assuring we offer the safest, highest quality, and most compassionate experience to every patient and their family.

Not surprisingly, no one dedicates themselves to working in a place of healing with the thought that they will be verbally abused, threatened, or even assaulted. Sadly though, instances of verbal and physical assault on healthcare workers are on the rise nationally and this disappointing trend is also reflected locally in our hospitals and other places we provide care.

The evidence is clear, healthcare professionals face a significantly elevated risk of being victims of workplace violence. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that of the 20,870 private sector workers who experienced trauma from non-fatal workplace violence in 2019 resulting in missed days from work, 70 percent worked in healthcare and related fields. That figure should be stunning to us as a society – 70 percent of these workplace incidents occur in a place meant for healing.

BLS data also shows that the incidence rate of violence against healthcare workers rose each year from 2011-2018. Meanwhile, surveys conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association indicate that almost half of emergency physicians report being physically assaulted at work, while about 70 percent of emergency nurses report being hit and kicked on the job.

In response to these conditions, hospitals across Virginia, including Valley Health, have implemented a range of safety and prevention programs including alerting systems, safety protocols, enhanced security personnel presence, and more. The welfare of our teams and patients is an ongoing topic of discussion among my hospital colleagues at the American Hospital Association, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and the West Virginia Hospital Association.

This growing epidemic of violence against healthcare workers calls for each of us to reflect upon the standards to which we will hold each other, and to question what it is that makes some people think it is permissible to hurt the very people to whom they came for care. At Valley Health, we are committed to our work as caregivers and the sacred role we play as our community’s place of healing, but our standard and expectation of those we care for is simple: we have zero tolerance for verbal or physical abuse of our caregivers.

Mark Nantz is President and CEO of Valley Health and is a resident of Winchester.