While some jobs have more inherent risks than others, any workplace is subject to accidents. Incidentally, the people whom we trust when we are injured–our healthcare professionals–work in some of the most accident prone environments. In fact, the healthcare industry has one of the highest rates of injury and illness and it is not uncommon for more of its workers to be injured on the job than in any other sector. Georgia hospitals are now taking action to further prevent one of the risks: physical and verbal assault of workers.
Violent Acts in the Healthcare Industry
Workplace violence is not uncommon, and roughly two million Americans report being the victim of such an incident every year. In emergency rooms and hospital settings, however, both physical and verbal assaults are constantly a threat. A patient might become angry and physically violent if refused narcotics, lash out if they are feeling stressed, or act out physically if they are mentally disturbed. As many as 21 percent of registered nurses and nursing students report being physically assaulted in just a 12-month period. Georgia is now toughening penalties for violent acts against healthcare workers, joining 18 other states which have done so.
Hospital workers are often reluctant to press charges, as dealing with difficult patients is generally considered part of the job. It’s a mindset that needs to change, says Lisa Falk, a research director with the Emergency Nurses Association, especially since roughly one-third of nurses consider switching jobs to be in a safer environment. In addition to the 56 percent of emergency nurses who are subject to violence per week, 75 percent of emergency room physicians face at minimum one violent act per year.
Nurses aren’t the only ones subject to violence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychiatric aides have the highest rate of violent injuries, experiencing roughly 590 injuries per 10,000 full-time employees. It’s a rate that is 10 times higher than that experienced by the next highest group, nursing assistants. Emergency departments, geriatrics, and behavioral health workers are all considered high-risk areas for violence.
Additional Hazards In Healthcare
Any worker involved, directly or indirectly, with providing health services to individuals is considered to be part of the healthcare industry. In Georgia alone, there are more than 300,000 people working in a number of different work settings, including hospitals, dental offices, birthing centers, clinics, nursing homes, emergency medical care, out-patient surgery centers, and more. In addition to the threat presented by violence, other hazards they face every day include:
- Biological hazards and bloodborne pathogens (including HIV/AIDS, TB, hepatitis, etc.);
- Chemical and drug exposure (formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, peracetic acid, etc.) used in laboratories or on patients;
- Ergonomic hazards, including lifting of patients and repetitive tasks;
- Psychological hazards, including stress or shiftwork;
- Laser, X-ray and radioactive hazards;
- Electrical hazards from medical equipment; and
- Fire and explosion hazards caused by various equipment and tools.
Just as all other workers, healthcare workers need protection from injuries and illnesses they face at work. Risk of injury becomes greater when healthcare facilities are strained for money and staffing needs.
Who Is at Risk and Types of Injuries
When we think of the healthcare industry workers, our thoughts immediately jump to doctors, nurses, and various medical staff. Of course, these are not the only people working in many large healthcare facilities. In addition to medical personnel, there are also many additional workers to support them. Other workers who are also at risk for the many health and safety hazards in hospitals and healthcare facilities include administrative staff, laundry, food service, housekeeping, mechanical maintenance, medical equipment maintenance, building and grounds maintenance.
Generally, healthcare worker injuries fall into a few different categories: overexertion and bodily reaction (48 percent); slips, trips, and falls (25 percent); contact with objects (13 percent); violence (nine percent); exposure to substances (four percent); and other causes (one percent). Nearly half of all injuries in hospitals result from overexertion or related-events. Musculoskeletal disorders, such as sprains and strains, are by far the most common reason healthcare workers needed time off for injury, and patient interaction is the leading cause for these types of injuries. For workers filing claims for illnesses related to the job, skin disorders and respiratory conditions are the most commonly recorded, though unspecified illnesses are the most prevalent (75 percent).
Why Injuries Are Prevalent In Healthcare
Workplace injuries have decreased significantly across all industries, but despite drops, the healthcare industry still has double the rates of injury as private industries. There are many reasons why hospitals and other healthcare facilities continue to have high rates of injury. Some of the biggest reasons are the unique circumstances faced by hospitals that don’t often occur in other industries.
Hospitals are very dynamic and unpredictable workplaces. It is difficult to predict how many and what type of patients will need assistance. In a busy environment, workers are put in contact with potentially contagious patients and next to sharp objects that could be contaminated. Handling of patients, including lifting, repositioning, or transferring patients with limited mobility can cause many injuries, which are precipitated when dealing with patients who also have mental and physical health issues and may be prone to violent outbursts.
Another unique problem faced by healthcare workers is the culture of the industry. Working as caregivers, they have certain ethical duties, one being “do no harm” to the patient. Unfortunately, this stance often times compels workers to compromise their own self and safety for the benefit of the patient. When this emphasis on patient safety is combined with a lack of safeguards for workers, further risks for healthcare workers may be created.
Workers’ Compensation Attorney In Georgia
Doctors, nurses, psychiatric nurses, and all other medical professionals and hospital staff dedicate their lives to helping their patients. If you are an Atlanta healthcare worker who has sustained an injury at work due to violence or through another workplace accident, you can get help. Contact the dedicated Workers’ Compensation Lawyers in Atlanta to find out how we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call of today to discuss the specifics of your case and get started on your claim.