Violence against nurses, a growing problem in New Jersey

Nurses and other hospital workers often experience violent outbursts from patients and their families, and it gets shrugged off as part of the job. Several years ago, New Jersey lawmakers put into place an act to help protect healthcare employees from violence in the workplace. Despite that law, violence against health workers is still being called an epidemic.

According to a National Public Radio story, many health care workers said the physical and verbal abuse comes primarily from patients, some of whom are disoriented because of illness or from medication. Sometimes nurses and doctors are abused by family members who are on edge because their loved one is so ill.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, incidents of serious workplace violence are four times more common in health care than in private industry. A poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2018 found nearly half of emergency physician respondents reported being physically assaulted. More than 60 percent of them said the assault occurred within the previous year.

Groups representing doctors and nurses said while the voluntary safety improvements that some hospitals have enacted are a good first step, more needs to be done.

What hospitals are required to do to prevent violence

The Violence Prevention in Healthcare Facilities Act requires the following of New Jersey employers:

  • Establish a Workplace Violence Prevention committee that meets regularly to plan and oversee all aspects of the Violence Prevention Program at your facility
  • Conduct an annual, comprehensive violence risk assessment for the facility that looks at facility layout, access restrictions, neighborhood crime rate, lighting, communication and alarm devices, staffing, security personnel, and records of violent incidents
  • Develop violence prevention policies and take specific steps to reduce risks of violence, including training, equipment, staffing, job design and facility modification
  • Provide annual violence prevention training that includes workplace policies; how to de-escalate, minimize and respond to violent behavior; reporting requirements; location and operation of safety devices; and resources for coping with violence
  • Have staff that are trained to identify the warning signs of aggressive and violent behavior and the ability to appropriately respond to and manage violent behavior
  • Keep detailed records of all violent acts against employees, including the steps the facility has taken in response to each incident
  • Have an in-house crisis response team for employee-victims and their co-workers, and individual and group crisis counseling.

If you are a New Jersey nurse or other health care worker and were injured by violence on the job, the workers’ compensation attorneys at Kotler, Hernandez & Cohen can help you navigate the laws and get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to get started.

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