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Health care workers face patient assaults

No profession or workplace is immune from workplace injuries. Health care workers in particular suffer serious workplace injuries from patient assaults.

Health care and social assistance workers suffer violent injuries requiring absence from their jobs at a rate that is four times greater than other private sector employees, according to the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration. Psychiatric and technicians working in higher risk settings such as psychiatric units and emergency departments experience workplace violence at a rate that is 69 times more than average in this country. A 2018 poll of 3,500 emergency physicians revealed that 47 percent of respondents claimed that they were assaulted at work while 71 percent witnessed an attack.

Health care facilities can help victims of these violent assaults by developing protocols to determine whether a criminal prosecution is warranted and authorizing administrators to pursue legal action on behalf of employees who were assaulted. Other actions include reporting incident to supervisors, recording behaviors on patient charts, and seeking a restraining order. However, surveys reveal that many health care facilities do not have clear policies governing assaults against staff members while many others do not enforce existing policies.

The Joint Commission, which accredits health care organizations in this country, released a report about workplace violence and advocated restructuring to reduce it. Their recommendations included training staff in de-escalation techniques, developing incident reporting systems, installing devices such as metal detectors and keyboard access to doors, and giving support to workers who are victims of violence.

California and other states also have criminal laws prohibiting violence on health care workers. Prosecutions are often intended to deter unlawful behavior or acts against patients who have numerus recorded episodes.

However, some patients harm staff because of disorientation, confusion, or dementia or some other mental illness. Some hospital officials have resisted criminal prosecutions, and many victims fear retribution from colleagues or patients.

In addition to physical harm, victims undergo a shattering experience that runs counter to their training of helping and not fearing patients. It is therefore recommended that they share their feelings with colleagues or counselors.

Victims of a workplace assault should seek immediate legal assistance to learn more about their legal options. An attorney can help pursue compensation or other legal relief and hold responsible parties liable for any harm they may have caused.

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