Accepted for far too long as just “part of the job,” a sharp increase in violence or threats of violence against healthcare workers has elevated the nation’s hospitals and emergency departments to the status of dangerous workplaces. A new study has started to scratch the surface of just how pervasive the problem actually is.
“Multiple respondents…voiced a sense of resignation that violence is an unavoidable or expected part of the job and that reporting it would not lead to meaningful change,” wrote a research group out of UNC Chapel Hill. Dealing with the issue would require a “multidisciplinary, multipronged approach including individual, institutional, and systems-based strategies.”
What sets the UNC research apart from other studies previously conducted of the problem is that researchers gave front line medical workers a chance to describe their encounters firsthand. Rather than relying solely on numbers and data, the UNC study qualifies the data with actual accounts.
Those accounts are harrowing. Many include death threats while others include everything from general verbal abuse to physical assault. One recounted a tale of a patient threatening their life and being escorted out of the building only to find that patient waiting outside for them at the end of their shift.
And yet, through all of this, doctors, nurses, and others will care for these people as they continue to come to them for help. As one nurse detailed in a response, “it’s concerning that charges can be filed against a healthcare professional for too much force but nothing can be done when a patient punches, kicks, bites, scratches, pulls hair, or generally assaults you.”
Unfortunately, the problem has only gotten worse as misinformation campaigns about the COVID-19 pandemic have turned Americans against each other. Initially met with thanks and gratitude for venturing into the unknown to save lives under some of the most strenuous circumstances imaginable, healthcare workers are now seen by many as the enemy. While this blog won’t be used to perpetuate their ridiculous and nonsensical claims, the fact remains that the nation’s medical professionals were already facing more than their fair share of abuse. To add on top of it as they not only fight a virus but also a population unwilling to do its part to help them only adds insult to injury.