Nurses press MPs to curb on-the-job attacks on health care workers


NURSES AREN’T BOUNCERS. But their life on the job can too often be almost as violent. They’ve had enough of it.

Nurses are often kicked, punched, stabbed, scratched, and spat on. It has to stop  says Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). The union met with MPs in Ottawa on May 14 to offer their plan to make “health care settings safe for both staff and patients.”

Nurses have been demanding action on the issue from Ottawa for almost 18 months. The May 14 hearing was a breakthrough. It was the first-ever parliamentary study on workplace violence in health care.

More violent than police work

“I think any Canadian would find it shocking to hear that nurses face a workplace violence crisis that is worsening at a faster rate than for police and correctional officers,” said Silas. “And yet that’s the reality that nurses face every day.”

For example, a recent attack on a nurse in Moncton left her with a concussion, a brain contusion, two black eyes and possibly a broken nose after being knocked down and chocked.

Findings from a 2017 survey of the 1,700 nurses in the NB Nurses Union show 6 out of ten experienced a violent encounter on the job within a one-year period.

National data shows that the number of violence-related lost-time injuries for frontline health care workers increased by close to 66% between 2006 and 2015 —three times the rate of increase for police and correctional service officers combined.

Union offers action plan

However, the union message was not all “doom and gloom.” “We came to talk to MPs about the very achievable solutions that the federal government can work towards to make health care settings safe for both staff and patients,” said Silas.

The CFNU recommended a number of measures that the federal government could undertake to address the crisis of violence in health care. Among them, Silas asked MPs to consider:

  • A comprehensive federal study into health human resources planning;
  • Targeted federal funding to enhance protections for health care workers through violence-prevention infrastructure and programs, with community police included as an essential partner with Joint Health and Safety Committees;
  • The federal government to apply best practices around violence prevention in federally regulated health care settings—to lead by example;
  • National minimum security training standards for health care environments to be legislated;
  • Support from this committee for Bill C-434, as well as promoting the use of Westray Bill among Crown prosecutors in cases involving health care workers;
  • Federal funding toward CIHI’s collecting and reporting on facility-level workplace violence-related data.

“Canada’s nurses can be proud today that our efforts to bring this crisis to the attention of Canada’s politicians worked. Parliament is now listening to us,” said Silas.

“It’s time for the federal government to take bold action by implementing meaningful solutions to this crisis.”



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