Emergency Room Nurses Face Increasing Danger

Published: 26th November 2009
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the Unites States reported verbal harassment and 67 percent reported physical violence.

While in Canada, 84 percent of the nurses in the emergency department witnessed verbal harassment once in every shift. While there are 90 percent of them claimed to experience verbal abuse at least once a week. In Australia, there are 70 percent of nurses who experience violence at least five times a week.

Emergency room nurses are falling victims to increasing violence in the emergency department of hospitals.

The Emergency Nurses Association conducted a study and 86 percent of all the ER nurses involved in the survey had some form of violence committed against them while they are on duty.

Last 2005, the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are 4,000 hospital employees assaulted while working in the ER. In the same year, ER doctors in Michigan reported that 28 percent has experienced physical assault while 75 percent received verbal assaults.

Patients themselves could be the perpetrators of this violence occurring in emergency departments. Intoxication and long delay in the waiting room are common things that might fire up a patient.

Based on one of the largest studies made on the issue made on 2004 in Minnesota, patients committed almost all of the physical assaults and two-thirds of the verbal harassments.

Visitors as well as physicians and other staff members are responsible for the other assaults and harassments. It is only possible to receive aggression from the patient's family members. If the patient was involved in a traumatic incident, his family members' anxiety levels could be very high and may overwhelm them.

The most common assaults against nurses could sometimes result into serious injury. Typical assaults would include spitting, hitting, kicking, hair pulling and attack using an object or weapon.

There would be incidents that would result into serious injury, an example would be an ER nurse who lost her baby when kicked by a patient in the stomach. Drug or alcohol, psychiatric conditions, neurological problems and a history of violence are factors for such violent acts.

Between 1980 and 1990, there were 26 physicians, 18 registered nurses, 27 pharmacists, 17 nurses' aides, and 18 other health care workers were killed on the job (U.S. Department of Labor). While there were 221 hospitals in America and Canada that reported 42 homicides, 1,463 physical assaults, 67 sexual assaults, 165 robberies, and 47 armed robberies in 1995 according to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety.

There are also behavioural clues is a patient or visitor is likely to be abusive. Postures tend to be tensed while speech is load and can be threatening or insistent. Aggressors would constantly drop threats or plans of violence.

There are also certain diagnoses associated with violent behaviour like substance abuse, acute psychoses, acute organic brain syndrome, personality disorders and partial complex seizures.

The time is also relevant.

Incidents which occur on a night shift are more likely to produce violent patients. In a study conducted by University of California at Irvine, 31.8 percent of violent incidents occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. while only 13.3 percent of the patient volume was seen during these hours.

So what are the public doing about this?

Nursing organizations and unions are constantly working to draw the attention and educate the public on this issue. They are also lobbying for a legislation in increasing the penalties against perpetrators. Programs are being developed in healthcare institutions to address this issue. Security has been reinforced in hospitals to prevent the escalating violence in emergency departments.

Emergency nurses are the first one to give first aid to hurt and injured people. Now seems the time to help them stop getting hurt.

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