The California Safe Care Standard’s campaign to get a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers –Petition No. 538 – is all about ensuring that engineering and administrative controls are put into place that eliminate the hazard of violence in healthcare facilities. Violence doesn’t happen because workers fail to do their jobs or because people act out. People get hurt because safeguards haven’t been put into place by management to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
An SEIU 121RN member told me last August that she had faced a dangerous situation at work when a 250+ lb. male patient acted out and chased her down a locked hallway. She had no other staff with her and her only way to protect herself was to crawl under a table. She escaped physical injury, but was scared, as you can imagine.
This nurse and many other healthcare workers telling similar stories always say the same thing: they were not just scared for themselves, but for their patients and co-workers as well. The person who acted out could have easily redirected to ANYONE in the facility and what this nurse did was to try to take care of herself (and everyone else) by keeping his attention on her.
There are many, many things wrong with the particular scenario above (not being able to get out of a locked hallway and working alone pretty much top that list), but what it illustrates is the potential and real possibility of what violence means not only for ourselves, but also for anyone else who happens to be around when someone becomes violent.
Violence in healthcare facilities doesn’t know any boundaries. Anyone and everyone present and “in the way” can be a potential target for an agitated person, whether that person is a patient, a family member, a visitor, an administrator, or a co-worker.
Violence is no different from other occupational health and safety hazards: if it is predictable, it is preventable. Our goal is to ensure that engineering and administrative safeguards are put into place that will prevent the hazard of violence from whatever its source and toward whomever it is directed. Petition No. 538 is not just about OUR safety as healthcare workers. A safe workplace for us means a safe environment for our patients, their families, and visitors.
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