• Joe Wilhelm

Violence Against Healthcare Workers

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Last week, the Philadelphia region and the healthcare community was rocked by the news of a shooting at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. 43-year-old Anrae James, a nursing assistant at TJUH, was shot and killed by coworker Stacey Hayes. Those of us at The Digital Voice send our condolences to James' family in the wake of this awful tragedy. While the death of a hospital worker may seem to be something out of the ordinary on the news, it’s representative of an epidemic in this nation that isn’t getting nearly as much attention as COVID: violence against healthcare workers.

Unfortunately, violence against healthcare workers is not something new to this country. According to an article by the American Journal of Managed Care, 75% of 25,000 annual workplace assaults occur in healthcare settings. It is estimated by nursingworld.org that only 20-60% of incidents are actually reported. An OSHA study conducted between 2002 and 2013 found 47% of emergency medical physicians had experienced a physical assault and that, dissimilarly to the attack at Jefferson, 97% of physicians attributed these attacks to patients. Unfortunately, nurses, technicians, and other healthcare workers are certainly not exempt from these harrowing statistics. According to one study by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 2,000 EMS professionals are injured every year by a violent incident on the job.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have made some of us realize how valuable our healthcare workers truly are, it seems to have made some forget their importance, and the patience they demonstrate on a daily basis. In an interview with ABC News, California nurse Mawata Kamara stated that she feels that the pandemic “added a magnifying glass” to the already-prevalent issue of violence in her workplace. A survey conducted by National Nurses United, that reached 15,000 nurses in late 2020, resulted in 20% of responses indicating an opinion of increased workplace violence primarily attributed to problems brought on by COVID-19. As we all know, COVID has created a situation where healthcare workers are overworked and hospitals are understaffed, resulting in longer wait times at emergency rooms and other facilities. While frustration among patients is understandable in this scenario, assault is not something to be expected, nor should it be.

While the situation may seem grim, the rise in violence directed towards healthcare workers has created an environment that has forced hospital and healthcare systems to look into advances in security measures and de-escalation training with staff. While it is unfortunate that these steps should even have to be taken, something must be done about this epidemic. While it ultimately starts with the public, these enterprises must act to keep their employees safe. That being said, I hope anyone that reads this article can at least start to understand and appreciate our healthcare workers and all that they go through a bit further. They are always there when we need them, and we have needed them now more than ever. Let’s remember to show them that.

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