Nurses gather to try to prevent workplace violence

    Healthcare workers have among the highest workplace violence rates in the private sector.

    By Carolyn Beeler

    About 200 nurses gathered at a conference in Philadelphia Wednesday to talk about how to prevent workplace violence for health-care professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that health-care workers are some of the most likely among private sector workers to be attacked on the job. And now, with budget cuts reducing staffing and the presence of security guards in many places, some nurses say it’s even more dangerous in hospitals now than it used to be.

    Patricia Eakin, the president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the group that organized the nurse’s conference, said long wait times and a tight economy are leading more patients to become violent against those who are trying to care for them.

    “There’s a lot of tension in health-care settings snow,” Eakin said. “Hospitals are trying to make sure that all their beds are occupied, they’re cutting staffing, and they’re really trying to push patients through, it’s very high pressure these days.”

    Eakin said she hopes the conference raising awareness about the problem. She wants her organization to push for legislation requiring hospitals to develop workplace violence prevention programs.

    Dorothy Hoffman, a psychiatric hospital nurse who was assaulted by a patient about three years ago, attended the event. She said she’d like to see legislation enacting harsher penalties for those who attack health-care workers. That might discourage people from launching attacks down the road.

    “If people think well I’m angry, I can act out,” Hoffman said. “Nothing’s going to happen to me, then why not?”

    The nurses’ group plans to form a task force to address the problem within the next few months.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.