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

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

Paramedics Andrew Mills, left, and Rick Harwood are up from Victoria to help out local ambulance crews. (Photo courtesy BC Emergency Health Services)
Extra paramedics sent to Terrace

Area is experiencing high number of COVID cases

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Security has been stepped up at both Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, pictured here, and at Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat. (File photo)
Stillbirth reaction leads to more hospital security

Staff, physicians facing threats and harassment

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Hazelton school COVID-19 closure extended one week

With spring break on horizon, Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary will be closed to end of March

There were 31 new COVID-19 cases in the Terrace local health area during the week of Feb. 21 to Feb. 27, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control)
Northwest B.C. remains a COVID-19 hot spot

There were 31 new cases reported in the Terrace local health area between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Vancouver Island mom’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Most Read