A Nurses Call to Action to Combat a Dangerous Job
By: American Nurses Association
We are nurses. We show up for work, every day. We leave our family behind, kiss our spouses, and head off to work, and too often, we do so with the awareness that this shift might be “the one”. The one where we don’t leave on our own two feet. The one where the scars last forever, or the one that we don’t survive.
This sounds like a description of military or law enforcement. And it’s true that this is reality for those in those careers. It is understood that law enforcement is potentially dangerous, even deadly work. But, while the job description for a nurse never includes descriptions like, “ability to handle direct physical assault”, or “tolerating verbal abuse”, or “skilled in recovering from physical harm related to violent altercations”, too often those are skills nurses must quickly learn.
When I worked in the Emergency Department, the possibility of getting hurt was a daily reality, with a large variety of volatile patients. Kids high on K2. Twenty-somethings coming out of a heroin overdose. Psych patients trying to stab “the demon in your eye.” An elderly welder with dementia trying to clock me over the head with his massive fists. Unfortunately, my story is not that uncommon. 1 in 4 nurses are assaulted, and the problem is that as violence against nurses becomes normalized, we stop reporting it. Often, we stop encouraging others to report the incidents where they didn’t get hurt. We stop encouraging and supporting them to press charges when they do. All in all, as of late, nurses have begun to accept the possibility of serious injury as part of the job.
This attitude must stop, and be replaced with the Nurses Call to Action: “I will protect my own life, so I can protect my patients”. After all, it’s the same thing we tell our patients, they must first care for themselves before they can adequately care for others. If a nurse is injured and unable to work due to one patient, tens or hundreds of patients are then missing out on their care. Even worse, if a nurse is abused to the point where they begin to dislike, or even fear their job, their quality of care as well as their quality of life will suffer, along with all those patients and coworkers they come into contact with.
I encourage all nurses to download, print, and post this quick one-page resource: A NURSE’S Call, that has helpful guidance and reminders on how together, we can help put a stop to workplace violence against nurses. For years, ANA has been leading the charge to end nurse abuse, raising awareness about this issue and pushing for administrative and legislative solutions. You can be part of the solution by taking the pledge to #EndNurseAbuse today: Text PLEDGE to 52886. Learn more about #EndNurseAbuse here.
You can also visit RNAction.org to learn what our elected officials can do to address violence in health care.