Most health care providers begin their careers because they want to make a positive impact on the lives of others. They believe in bringing healing to people. Very few of them are aware of or understand the inherent dangers that come with their jobs. There are situations that are just not covered in the textbooks or classrooms.
The International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety states that approximately two thirds of all hospitals are located in areas that are rated as high crime areas. So even before they step foot into the hospital, they are exposed to a high risk population. Getting to and from their vehicles can be precarious, especially since so many work late into the night.
The very nature of their work means they are around people with higher ratios of alcohol and drug abuse. Assaults, stabbings, and shootings are not uncommon occurrences inside the hospital. Surprisingly, these attacks don’t always come from the patients. Low staffing rations, increased work loads and hours lead to frayed nerves and flaring tempers from co-workers.
The American Nursing Association reports the following statistics:
- The healthcare sector leads all other industries, with 45% of all nonfatal assaults against workers resulting in lost work days in the US.
- From 1993 to 1999 approximately 765,000 assaults occurred against healthcare workers resulting in days away from work
- From 2003 to 2009, 8 registered nurses were FATALLY injured at work
– 4 RNs received gunshot wounds (RNs) leading to their death
– 4 RNs received other fatal injuries
– 8 of 8 RNs were working in private healthcare facilities (not state or local government)
– 8 of 8 RNs were 35-54 years of age
- In 2009 there were 2,050 assaults and violent acts reported by RNs requiring an average of 4 days away from work
- Of the 2,050 NONFATAL assaults and violent acts:
– 1,830 were inflicted with injuries by patients or residents
– 80 were inflicted by visitors or people other than patients
– 520 RNs were hit, kicked, or beaten
– 130 RNs were squeezed, pinched or scratched requiring days away from work
– 30 RNs were bitten
- In 2009, the Emergency Nurses Association reported that more than 50% of emergency center (EC) nurses had experienced violence by patients on the job and 25% of EC nurses had experienced 20 or more violent incidents in the past three years.
While hospitals are putting procedures in place to handle rage and violence with visible security personnel, security cameras and equipment, more needs to be done. Some are offering classes which teach nurses basic self-defense techniques.
There is also an increase in the number of health care workers who carry non lethal self defense weapons. If hospital policy allows, a stun gun is an excellent option to have inside the hospital. They can deter a situation or disable an attacker long enough for the worker to get away or get help. Only the person with whom the stun gun is making contact will be affected, so there is no chance of an innocent bystander getting hurt.
For self defense outside of the hospital building, the new Mace pepper spray gun is an excellent option. It has a pulsating strobe light which can disorient any potential attacker. It also contains seven bursts of maximum strength Mace with a range of 25 feet. The effects of pepper spray can last from 10 to 45 minutes. While it is non lethal, the bad guy may run into the emergency room because it causes your eyes to involuntarily swell shut and leaves you gasping for air.
Find out what your hospital’s policies are. If they allow you to carry self defense weapons then do so. Healthcare workers are in the profession to heal – not to get hurt.