Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union addresses a crowd. (Black Press files)

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

It is a scary fact that those who we count on most for our care are also the most likely to be victims of our abuse.

And yet that is the case with healthcare workers.

A stack of studies has shown that frontline professionals like nurses and care aides face workplace violence on a scale higher than any other sector.

We don’t have to look far to find support for that research.

Six weeks ago an Abbotsford nurse suffered a broken jaw and shattered cheek bone after a patient smashed an exercise weight into her face.

Information gleaned by the Abbotsford News shows she wasn’t the first. A 2015 internal risk assessment obtained by The News found that 75 per cent of staff working at Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency department said they were assaulted within the past year.

Those numbers are consistent with other studies. In June of this year the House of Commons released a report from the Standing Committee on Health Care. It concluded that healthcare workers were four times more likely to experience workplace violence than in any other profession.

And it’s getting worse, not better, says the B.C. Nurses Union. Between 2014 and 2018 the number of violent incidents reported at health care workplaces jumped 52 per cent.

“On average,” said BCNU president Christine Sorensen, “26 nurses per month suffer a violent injury at work in B.C.”

That’s nearly one a day.

And that may be just part of the story. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, most of the cases of workplace violence go unreported, partly because of a perception that physical and verbal abuse is “part of the job.”

The reasons for the violence are complex, but most of us would agree that assault should not be part of any job.

Certainly the pressure on our health care system is a major factor – ask anyone who has spent time waiting in an emergency department.

Changing demographics, rising incidents of addiction and attendant mental health issues, along with the very tense and emotional environment of a hospital are all factors.

But they are not excuses.

No one should go to work fearing they may suffer a life-altering injury because of violence.

Solutions so far, however, have been elusive.

Workplace BC is now mandating health care employers conduct “violence risk assessments” with the goal of amassing data to develop a comprehensive strategy.

The BCNU says its members have seen success at two busy care facilities where security has been beefed up. The union is calling on the government to have properly trained security staff at more hospitals.

The provincial government, meanwhile, is promising more action (although it hasn’t said what).

And the Standing Committee on Health Care is offering nine recommendations, ranging from changes to the Canadian Criminal Code, to funding for public awareness, research and upgrades to healthcare infrastructure.

For frontline health care workers, the attention is no doubt welcome.

But they need action, not words.

In a detailed study, Statistics Canada concluded this: “These potentially harmful consequences and the pervasiveness of abuse of Canada’s nurses emphasize the importance of staffing and resource adequacy and interpersonal relations among health care providers.”

That report was released 14 years ago.

Greg Knill is a columnist and former Black Press editor. Email him at Greg.Knill@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Legion to hold private Remembrance Day ceremony at Cloverdale Cenotaph

General public will not be allowed in Veterans Square for Nov. 11 services this year

Increased border enforcement curbs cross-line parties at Peace Arch State Park

Gatherings between U.S. and Canadian citizens ‘a daily carnival’ – resident

Transgender Surrey brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

Rivers could rise rapidly as heavy rains hit Lower Mainland

Larger rivers to reach peak levels on Thursday or into Friday, according to high streamflow advisory

Two Surrey women win BC Sports Hall of Fame awards for inspired service

Jane Blaine and Wendy Pattenden recognized during virtual summit

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Mounties cleared by watchdog in fatal shooting of man with schizophrenia in Maple Ridge

Kyaw Din was killed by the RCMP during a mental health incident in August 2019

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, but it didn’t happen

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Green leader says NDP abandoning environmental plan

Horgan’s claim of unstable government false, Furstenau says

Horgan promises more child care at $10 per day during Maple Ridge visit

Liberals say the NDP has failed to deliver on daycare

Mounties impound car of impaired driver celebrating birthday in North Vancouver

RCMP say the person was driving with their headlights off

Most Read