By Julie Ferguson
When it comes to on-the-job assaults, health care workers are on the front lines. Earlier this year, the National Council on Compensation Insurance issued a report on Violence in the Workplace, which showed that homicides and assaults are trending down. Good news, overall, but lets take a closer look at assaults:
“The decline in the rate of workplace assaults has lagged the steady decline in the rate for all lost work-time injuries and illnesses. This reflects a notable change in the composition of the U.S. workforce and, in particular, the ongoing increase in the share of health care workers, who experience remarkably high rates of injuries due to assaults by patients. This is especially common in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In fact, 61% of all workplace assaults are committed by healthcare patients. For assaults, coworkers make up just 7%, and someone other than a healthcare patient or coworker comprises 23%. The remainder is unspecified.”
Now, a new research report from Maine offers a close-up snapshot of the issue of workplace violence as it relates to caregivers. The Research and Statistics Unit of the Maine Department of Labor compiled data from First Reports of Injury for 2011 and issued a report on 2011 Violence Against Caregivers in Maine.
The report encompassed about 100,000 workers in healthcare and affiliated professions. Of the nearly 10,000 thousand injuries reported by those workers, 13.4% were related to violent and aggressive acts by patients and care recipients.
Key report findings include:
Where incidents occurred – Mental health care settings and other residential care facilities accounted for 52% of all violent/aggressive incidents in 2011. These were followed by nursing care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities, 18.9%, and general medical and surgical hospitals and services, 16.8%.
What types of jobs were involved – Nurses at all levels (including nursing assistants) were involved in 21.27% of the cases; education technicians were involved in 18.6% cases; direct support professionals (personal care, hygiene, life skills, etc) were involved in 9.4% cases; Other occupations with significant numbers of cases included psychiatric technicians, behavioral health technicians and analysts, mental health and social workers and child care and senior child care workers.
What types of assaults occurred – The most prevalent type of assault – being hit – accounted for 21.3% of all incidents. Bites were the second highest reports, at 16.6%, of the incidents. Other identifiable assault categories included kicks, 9.45%, and being grabbed, 9.4%.
Due to the high number of bite incidents, a specific section of the report focuses on bite injuries and references information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons 2009 Clinical Guidelines regarding viral and bacterial exposures and the potential for infections if the skin is broken. The report also cites National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health publications and reports, including common risk factors for violence and a list of potential prevention strategies.