The Danger to the Medical Field

Lesson 1: Topic 3 of 9

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the healthcare sector will see the largest amount of growth in the decade of the 2020s-2030s. Five of the top ten fastest growing jobs are in healthcare. Specifically, Nurse Practitioners, Physical Therapy Assistants, Home Health and personal care Aides, medical/health service Managers and Administrators, and Physician Assistants.

Why is this significant for this course? Because the BLS also reports that of all nonfatal workplace violence occurrences, the highest number ― 73 percent! ― involves healthcare workers. This figure rose four percent in the seven years between 2011-2018 (figures since the Covid19 pandemic were not available at the time of this writing). As their percentage of the workforce increases, acts of violence against healthcare employees are projected to climb as well.  

Over 27 percent of nurses, for example, report having seen instances of violence against a coworker. Forty percent of them say they themselves endured it ― and of that group, only 10 percent say their employers handled the situation well. Seventy-one percent of emergency medicine physicians have witnessed assaults, while 47 percent report they’ve personally been physically assaulted while working. Over half of social workers indicate they’ve experienced aggression while carrying out their duties. 

The impact of violence in healthcare settings is not limited to employees. Patients, clients, residents, and their guests are also victims. They can be directly hurt, of course, but even when not they still are impacted. The stress, fatigue, and fear engendered in medical staff that comes from being either personally attacked, or knowing their coworkers have been attacked, inevitably leads to poorer delivery of care. 

Workplace violence costs well over a billion dollars across all U.S. hospitals per year. Note that value is just for hospitals; it does not include medical clinics, doctors’ offices, skilled nursing facilities, et cetera. This means that the total dollar amount for all healthcare venues is much higher. 

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In a healthcare setting, there is a great deal of traffic: the clients/patients/residents, their families or other guests, vendors, pharmaceutical and medical equipment sales representatives, and so on. Violence could, of course, be initiated by anyone. However, in these places the assailant is most likely to be the care recipient, particularly the ones who are suffering from psychiatric disorders, dementia, or substance abuse/addiction. Nor does the healthcare facility have to be directly attacked to be impacted; an outside event (e.g., a refinery explosion) can overwhelm the available hospitals and caregivers with more victims than they were designed to handle. Owners/operators of these facilities must take this into account in order to protect staff.