Hospitals are pressure cookers as people are often distressed, mentally disturbed or intoxicated by drugs or alcohol in a highly stressful environment. All of these factors pose possible dangers to health care workers.
The greatest number of physical assaults occurred in emergency departments, according to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. A survey last year found that more than half of emergency nurses had been spit on, pushed, scratched and verbally assaulted on the job. One in four of the nearly 3,500 emergency room nurses reported being assaulted more than 20 times in the past three years, according to results from the Emergency Nurses Association.
The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 18,000 health care organizations and programs, compiled recent violence numbers based on voluntary reports. Its database indicated the greatest number of reported assaults, rapes, homicides in the last three years: 36 incidents in 2007, 41 in 2008 and 33 in 2009. The actual number of cases is believed to be higher.
Some hospitals have taken increased measures, such as the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, says a CNN report, which implemented metal detectors. In the first six months of the screening, 33 handguns, 1,324 knives and 97 chemical sprays were confiscated, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. The group lists possible solutions such as security officers, closed circuit television cameras with 24-hour trained observers, panic buttons and better control of the entry into the emergency department.