Workplace abuse in health care a growing and costly issue, says Nurses' Union
A new national report documents the dramatic cost of workplace violence suffered by nurses in both human and financial terms.
According to the report authored by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), 61 per cent of surveyed nurses say they have experienced abuse, harassment or assault in the workplace. Canadian nurses are more likely to experience burn-out, show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), require time off for recovery or leave the profession entirely. They estimate the annual cost of lost work time resulting from related illness or disability to be $989 million in 2016.
"It's a pressure cooker out there for nurses on the front line. Higher patient populations, greater patient acuity and increased workloads are all on the rise, and the quality of care is declining. Violence is a symptom of an unhealthy work environment," explains CFNU president Linda Silas. And an unhealthy work environment "hurts not only the worker, but it hurts our healthcare system", adds Silas.
Here in Ontario 54 percent of Ontario nurses reported experiencing physical abuse; 85 per cent experienced verbal abuse, and 19 per cent experienced sexual violence or abuse, says the CFNU report.
Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) lost-time claims statistics also demonstrate health care workers experience significantly more violence related injuries than those employed in fields often perceived to be more dangerous. In 2016, for example, there were 808 lost-time injuries owing to the workplace violence in the health care sector in Ontario, compared with 138 in manufacturing, 13 in construction and 0 in mining.
The CFNU report follows a national survey on the work and health of nurses released in 2005 by Statistics Canada and Health Canada. Then, nearly 30 per cent of nurses said they were assaulted by a patient and close to 44 per cent suffered emotional abuse from a patient over the previous 12 months.
Silas observes violence is an occupational health and safety hazard recognized in all provincial health and safety laws with the exception of New Brunswick. Among the CFNU's report recommendations is a call for Criminal Code provisions. Further the nurses' union calls for better prevention through the workplace assessments, training and emergency preparedness.