On average, 26 nurses experience violent injuries every month in the province while at work.
To add to that, of injuries suffered by those working in the health care sector, 31 per cent are a direct result of violent interactions with patients.
“If BC numbers were prevalent in any other industry, there would be a concerted effort on both WorkSafe and the provincial and federal governments to deal with the amount of injuries that are coming at the same level,” BC Nurse’s Union President Christine Sorensen told MyPGNow.
While Sorensen says the number of reported cases hasn’t been getting worse, she states it’s also not getting any better.
“There seems to be this concept that violence is part of a nurses job, aggressive patients is part of the work that we do. That is absolutely untrue,” she said. “We provide care for some of the most vulnerable populations, but we have seen an escalation of violence in health care unlike we’ve ever experienced before.”
Sorensen adds that it’s the patients that are culpable, meaning they’re aware of their actions, they’re wanting to be held accountable through changes of the Criminal Code of Canada.
The BCNU isn’t referring to the patient who has a mental illness or dementia (the patient who isn’t aware of their actions) but rather the patients who are verbally and physically assaulting nurses within the walls of hospitals and care centres. Sorensen said nurses have, and always will, care for those non-culpable patients.
Back in the fall, Sorensen says the BCNU delivered 24,000 signatures to the provincial government asking for violence prevention to become a bigger priority than it’s been.
Despite their on-going efforts, the union says a response from either level of government has been non-existent.
“It has been a deafening silence,” said Sorensen. “We really have seen very little to no response from the government, either at the provincial or federal level, with regards to how they’re going to implement safety procedures or take care of nurses who are injured in the workplace.”
Some of the things the union has asked for include more robust procedures, such as those related to Code White measures, which involve how they manage patients who are becoming physically aggressive. Security officers have also been asked for. The Minister of Labour has been asked to include nurses on the PTSD presumptive legislature and the federal government is also being called to make changes to the criminal code in order to protect nurses.
While larger hospitals have security, there still remain hospitals that don’t have any form of security, especially a few in the Northern Health region. However, it’s not your basic licensed guards the union is calling for.
“Not the standard types of officers who are there to ensure doors are closed and windows are locked,” said Sorensen. “But protection safety officers who can actually intervene and help to de-escalate, who have training in trauma-informed care and know how to manage patients who are escalating and may potentially become violent.”
According to the BCNU, the under-staffing and over-capacity that hospitals across the country are facing are related to the increased medical error, poor patient outcome, as well as the on-going violence that health care providers have to endure on a day-to-day basis in the workplace.