According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), healthcare workers are at a higher risk of workplace violence. And many incidents are not reported.
Incidents of workplace violence requiring time off for injuries have been on the rise for 20 years across the nation, including in Maine and a nurse in Maine who says he was a victim of assault is sharing his story.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw a fist coming around and then, things went pretty black,” a registered nurse said recalling his assault.
This nurse has agreed to share his story but has declined to be identified after being assaulted by a patient last month.
“I left with the diagnosis of assault,” he said.
This nurse is like many other healthcare workers, according to OSHA, violence in the workplace is very common for healthcare professionals. Many times in the emergency departments.
OSHA attributes this to crowded emergency departments, emotional situations, patients who may be involved with crime, or who might be having a psychiatric emergency.
Jeff Austin is the vice president of government affairs and communications at the Maine Hospital Association. He says these incidents are common here in Maine, too.
“It is the most common form of workplace violence in America,” he said.
He says the association sees these assaults, but healthcare workers rarely report these assaults, especially if there’s a mental health issue.
EMTALA is a federal law that requires anyone coming to an emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, but since its enactment in 1986 has remained an unfunded mandate.
Therefore, emergency department workers have to treat everyone who comes through the doors, no matter what.
Police, fire, long-term care facilities, and family members can drop patients who are violent and experiencing a mental health crisis off at any hospital.
“They can all drop them off at the emergency room and they know we can’t… and wouldn’t ever… just turn our back on them,” Austin said.
According to a study published earlier this year in the National Institute of Health, healthcare workers in California are working to close the “EMTALA Loophole” which leaves mental health patients in emergency departments day after day, even if they are not physically sick and are stable enough to go home for a long term care facility.