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Ferguson: One of America's Most Dangerous Jobs

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Kicked, pummeled, taken hostage, stabbed and sexually assaulted. Would you want a job that included these risks?

Julie Ferguson

Julie Ferguson

In One of America’s Most Dangerous Jobs, the Washington Post shines a spotlight on the dangers in the nursing profession, specifically around the violence nurses encounter on the job. Citing a recent Government Accountability Office report on violence in the health care profession, the article notes that, “the rates of workplace violence in health care and social assistance settings are five to 12 times higher than the estimated rates for workers overall.”

Here’s one excerpt from the article:

“In Massachusetts, Elise’s Law, which is named for the nurse who was attacked in June, is already on the fast track to set state standards for workplace protection. Legislators were working on this months before (Elise) Wilson was stabbed.

"Nurses in Massachusetts were attacked more frequently than police or prison guards. When association members testified about the violence epidemic this spring, they said nurses had been threatened with scissors, pencils or pens, knives, guns, medical equipment and furniture in the past two years alone, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that in surveys conducted by various nursing and health care groups:

  • 21% of nurses and nursing students reported being physically assaulted, and more than 50% verbally abused in a 12-month period.
  • 12% of emergency department nurses experienced physical violence and 59% experienced verbal abuse during a seven-day period.
  • 13% of employees in Veterans Health Administration hospitals reported being assaulted in a year.

While 26 states have workplace safety standards for health care facilities, there are no federal standards. Nursing groups say state efforts have helped increase awareness.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health worked with various partners — including nursing and labor organizations, academic groups, other government agencies and Vida Health Communications Inc. — to develop a free online course aimed at training nurses in recognizing and preventing workplace violence. The course has 13 units that take approximately 15 minutes each to complete and includes “resume-where-you-left-off” technology.

Learn more about the courses at Free Online Violence Prevention Training for Nurses here. The courses can be accessed here.

Julie Ferguson is a marketing consultant for Lynch Ryan & Associates, a Massachusetts-based employer consulting firm. This column was reprinted with permission from the firm's Workers' Comp Insider blog.

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