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Nurses and doctors need to report workplace violence issues

Everyone deserves to feel safe and actually be safe while they're at work -- unfortunately, many nurses and doctors work in an environment that is anything but. Violence against employees in the health care sector is a virtual epidemic of its own.

According to information provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), health care employees face a risk of violence four times higher than those in other industries -- and that's just based on the known incidents, because many are not reported.

Where the risks come from

Health care workers face the potential of violence from multiple sources:

  • The vast majority of assaults on nurses and doctors come from their patients.
  • Doctors and nurses also have to be wary of the family and friends of patients -- who will sometimes react with violence if they feel that a doctor or nurse could be doing more or their loved one isn't be treated properly.
  • Student interns and co-workers who simply can't handle the stressful environment sometimes snap and take out their aggression on each other.

Only a very small percentage of cases of violence against health care employees comes from unknown people or criminals.

Why the violence goes unreported

Just like the source of the violence, there are several reasons that many health care workers are reluctant to report violent incidents:

  • Many don't want to create problems for their patients, who may be suffering from dementia or lashing out because of pain when they attack.
  • There's a cultural factor in health care that makes employees feel like complaining is inappropriate -- that violence is just one of the job risks.
  • There are often no clear reporting policies.
  • Employees feel like reporting the violence won't change anything.
  • Some fear that they'll even risk retaliation for complaining about the hospital's lack of safeguards.

It's estimated that around 30 percent of assaults go unreported -- which is far too many. When the violence goes unreported, it doesn't let the administration know that the issue is as serious as it is -- and steps can't be taken to prevent the next incident.

If you're a nurse, doctor or other health care employee who has been injured on the job, make sure that you report the incident in a timely manner in order to preserve your right to compensation. A workers' compensation attorney can help you protect your own interests.

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