Workplace safety: Violence

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As a nursing assistant, you may encounter workplace violence. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, defines workplace violence as “the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults, directed toward persons at work or on duty.”

Some examples of workplace violence include written or verbalized threats; harassment, like being followed, yelled at, or sworn at; or physical harm done by hitting, kicking, stabbing, or shooting.

Healthcare team members, especially nurses and nursing assistants, may be victims of violent acts from internal sources, such as coworkers, clients, or visitors, or external sources, like robbers and muggers in the facility parking area.

Now, violence can occur anywhere in the healthcare setting, but it is particularly common in emergency rooms, waiting areas, mental health units, and parking lots because these areas are often associated with multiple risk factors linked to violence.

These risk factors include people with weapons, acutely disturbed or violent individuals, criminals brought in by police, abusers of illicit drugs or alcohol, individuals with mental health issues, upset family members or visitors, long wait times due to understaffing, and poorly lit areas.

Working alone, especially without easily accessible communication devices, is also associated with an increased risk of workplace violence.

Lack of staff training to recognize and react appropriately to hostile or assaultive situations can also contribute to increased workplace violence.

Now, as a nursing assistant, your role when it comes to workplace violence is threefold: keep yourself safe, keep others safe, and immediately report any incidents to the nurse.

You can help keep yourself safe by knowing your way around the care facility, communicating your whereabouts at all times, ensuring you aren’t alone in any poorly lit or low traffic areas, and remaining alert to any suspicious persons or activities.

Avoid walking alone at night whenever possible. You can contribute to keeping others safe by helping to make sure visiting hours and policies are enforced; items like scissors, pens, or tools that could be used as weapons are not visible or accessible to clients or visitors; and access to restricted areas, like pharmacies or drug storage areas, is controlled.


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