Protecting our Health Care Workers

A news release issued by the British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU) on February 24th 2015 cries “Nurses need better protection form violent patients.”

The very next week, a variation on the same theme saw a headline from California in the United States where a new draft of proposed changes to Occupational Health & Safety regulations will see hospitals engaged at a much deeper level with their staff to create safer working environments.

It has as much to do with accountability as keeping healthcare staff safe

These draft regulations will require that applicable healthcare facilities will further develop their Workplace Violence Prevention plans to include, among other things:

  • The names and/or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan
  • Procedures to ensure employees comply with the plan
  • Procedures for communicating with employees regarding workplace violence
  • Assessment procedures for the identification and evaluation of environmental risk and patient-specific workplace violence risk factors
  • Procedures for timely correction of workplace violence hazards
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation of workplace violence injuries, and
  • Provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees for seeking help from local emergency services or law enforcement
  • The names and/or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan

Looking at that list of additional elements, I would say that it is all about accountability. Steven Covey once said “Accountability breeds response-ability” and that is all nurses and other healthcare staff are looking for. They are looking to their employers to be responsive in providing them a safe workplace.
Speaking to hundreds of nurses at BCNU’s annual convention in February, BCNUM President Gayle Duteil said “We have waited too long for the government and health authorities to take action and our nurses have the broken jaws to prove it.”
She was referring to the recent attacks on professionals at two BC hospitals.
In one instance which occurred in December 2014, a doctor was treating a psychiatric patient when he suffered a brutal attack from the individual leaving him with a broken jaw and other facial injuries.

Workplace Violence Is Real for Health Care Workers

In a much more recent incident, an emergency room nurse was attacked by her patient on March 1st. The nurse received significant trauma to her head and face as well as a serious eye injury requiring surgery.
BCNU Vice president Christine Sorenson was quoted at the time as saying “Nurses are professionals who provide care and they should not end up as patients due to violence.”

That same hospital was fined $75,000 by WorkSafeBC on May 2014 for the employer failing to implement necessary risk-reduction measures identified in its own assessment constituted reckless disregard for the safety of workers.
It comes down to that same word again: Accountability.
Perhaps now is the time.