The “alarming but not surprising” survey reveals physical violence, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment, poor staffing levels, and inadequate management support.
Charlottetown (16 Aug. 2019) — Over the past 3 years, the PEI Union of Public Sector Employees (PEI UPSE/NUPGE) has been working to raise awareness about workplace violence in health care facilities. The union had many incident reports from members, and as a result of this, the union has on numerous occasions voiced concerns with the PEI government.
Survey of resident care workers, patient care workers, licensed practical nurses
Recently, PEI UPSE/NUPGE conducted a workplace violence survey of resident care workers, patient care workers, and licensed practical nurses working in the health system. The latest edition of The Accent reports the findings of the survey, the results of which are described by Karen Jackson, PEI UPSE/NUPGE President, as “alarming but not surprising.”
The survey reveals that 90% of these front-line health care workers have experienced violence in the workplace. This includes physical violence (hitting, biting, pushing, kicking, etc.), verbal abuse (swearing, threats, name calling and yelling) and sexual harassment.
Violence originates from clients, but less emphasis on restraint protocols
According to the survey, the violence health care workers experience most often comes from the clients they are providing care for. Many of these clients are experiencing dementia at an earlier age and are physically stronger.
Further, there is now less emphasis placed on restraint protocols (which includes medication) in acute care, long-term care, and home care environments.
Workers demand increased staffing, more training, better support from management
The survey asked workers about how to reduce workplace violence in health facilities. The most frequent responses indicated that more staff is required, appropriate medication should be used, and workers need more training. The results also showed that frontline health care workers do not feel supported by management, with 86% reporting that their employer does not do enough to prevent violence in their workplace.
Jackson meets govt. reps: ‘workplace violence is not acceptable, changes must happen now’
President Jackson recently met with representatives of government and Health PEI to discuss the results of the survey.
“Workplace violence is not acceptable, and there have to be changes made within the health care system to deal with this serious issue. These changes must happen now, before any more of our members are injured,” said Jackson.
The survey asked those who had seen or experienced workplace violence whether they thought the incident could have been prevented — 74% believed the incident was preventable. In other words, workplace violence is not simply a given and in many instances can be prevented through improved workplace health and safety.
“My message has always been that the provision of a safe workplace is ultimately the employer’s responsibility,” Jackson explained. “Our members are working in unsafe worksites and are facing violent clients without the resources required to provide a safe working environment, not only for our members, but for the other clientele living in these facilities.”
The issue of workplace violence is complex; however, the bottom line is that no one should have to go to work on a daily basis expecting to be assaulted.
Awareness campaign to be launched in fall
In the early fall of 2019, PEI UPSE/NUPGE will launch a campaign to build more awareness about workplace violence. This issue affects front-line health care workers, patients and residents, and their families. Jackson declared, “Workplace violence is not ‘just part of the job,’ and it’s time for change!”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE