It is likely that every Kentucky family has had a loved one who has received care from a nurse. In fact, it is even more likely that every Kentuckian has received care from a nurse.
The nurse’s touch may have involved care following a surgical procedure, a difficult diagnosis, response following a traumatic injury, childbirth or care at the end of life. The gentle and healing touch of a nurse has brought comfort to residents of the commonwealth during some of life’s most joyful and difficult times.
Throughout each of these interactions, nurses have pledged to give their best care during every encounter. The general public applauds their efforts and has recognized nursing as the most trusted profession every year since 2001, according to the most recent annual Gallup Poll. Despite this level of commitment to our communities, there is an increasing number of reported acts of violence against nurses.
According to the International Journal of Nursing Studies (2016), in an investigation of 26,979 nurses, almost 50 percent reported they had experienced at least one episode of violence in the past year, with approximately 19 percent reporting physical violence.
These acts of violence may be related to the opioid crisis, other substance abuse and mental health issues or family stress, among other factors. Regardless of the genesis of the violence, members of the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA), the professional association for nurses, felt it imperative that a group of nurse leaders and administrators from across the state come together to begin dialogue about the events and craft some responses toward solution.
To that end, the KNA recently hosted a workplace forum, and those attending stressed the critical importance of bringing this safety concern that impacts nurses and health care workers to the forefront of public discussion.
The KNA is the voice for nurses in Kentucky, bringing attention to current events that threaten the safety of those whose chosen profession involves care of Kentuckians. Workplace forum attendees identified several actions that will go a long way toward creating a culture of nurse and health care worker safety applicable in all settings where care is delivered.
These actions include standardized training to de-escalate volatile situations in the workplace, regular in-service education on how to deal with workplace aggression, the use of panic buttons, support and facilitation of care providers reporting all violent incidents, and incorporation of workplace safety into nursing school curriculums. More aggressive suggestions include the use of security staff, such as off-duty police officers in settings where violence is common and alarming, such as in emergency departments, behavioral health facilities and substance-abuse treatment settings.
Hospital executives and health industry leaders have demonstrated focus on protecting all health care personnel and will provide programs across the state that bring awareness to the importance of reporting all incidents and prosecuting the offenders.
In Kentucky, violence against nurses is a class IV misdemeanor. If we are to protect Kentucky’s nurses, nurses themselves, administrators and the judicial system must adhere to the law.
For the safety of all, everyone must be held accountable for violent acts. Further, we must support health care personnel in this legal process recognizing that it is a sorrowful but necessary step. For the sake of Kentucky nurses and the Kentuckians for whom they care, we must adhere to a zero tolerance of aggression against all those who provide care.
Please join us in keeping all health care professionals safe. Speak out and speak up — show how much you care for those who care for you.
About The Author:
Ruth Carrico is the president of the Kentucky Nurses Association.
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