Working in healthcare can be hazardous to your health.

Studies show that from verbal abuse to physical violence, America's 15 million healthcare workers face daily threats to their safety as they do their jobs—particularly in emergency rooms.

Healthcare workplace assaults

According to the U.S. Labor Department, from 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents—those requiring days off for an injured worker to recuperate—was on average more than four times greater in healthcare than private industry.

Healthcare settings account for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined, according to the Occupational and Health Safety Administration.

And those numbers may not reflect the depth of the problem because only 30% of nurses and 26% of doctors report when they are victims of violence.

"We need to change the employee's mindset from 'violence is part of the job' to 'violence is a problem that needs to be managed,'" says Judy Arnetz, a Michigan State University professor who researches violence in healthcare settings.

Highest Injury Rate

Department of Labor statistics for 2014 on intentional injury by other people show that the healthcare and social assistance industry had the highest rate of nonfatal injury cases of any industry at 8.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

In 2013, 27 out of the 100 fatalities that took place in healthcare and social service settings were from assaults and violence.

Workplace violence cost U.S. hospitals and health systems roughly $2.7 billion in 2016, according to a report prepared for the American Hospital Association.

Workplace violence cost U.S. hospitals and health systems roughly $2.7 billion in 2016.

That includes $1.1 billion in security and training costs, $280 million for preparedness and prevention, $852 million in unreimbursed medical care for victims, and an additional $429 million in medical care, staffing, indemnity, and other costs related to violence against hospital employees.

A 2017 incident at an Illinois, hospital highlights the dangers. An inmate guarded by a corrections officer stole the officer's gun and fled, taking two nurses hostage.

A SWAT team responded and, after many tense hours, killed the inmate. The nurses were freed.

Legislation Proposed

That incident and many others are why U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) introduced legislation earlier this year.

He proposed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Healthcare and Social Service Workers Act, a measure that directs OSHA to issue a standard requiring healthcare and social service employers to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to protect employees.

"This legislation is the result of a five-year process to build the foundation for long overdue change to protect America’s caring professions," Courtney said.

He introduced the bill, which is pending, because, he said, no law exists requiring hospitals, doctors' offices or other medical facilities to perform any specific security functions to protect workers.

Voluntary guidelines have been around for decades and are used, he said, but more is needed.

OSHA resources include Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, and other tools and publications.


For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).