Nurses and personal support workers aren't the only health care staff that experience workplace violence, according to a recent study titled "Assaulted and Unheard: Violence Against Healthcare Staff."
Researchers James Brophy and Margaret Keith released the results of the study in Sudbury on Monday, along with Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) President Michael Hurley.
OCHU commissioned the study last year, as part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about violence in hospitals.
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The researchers conducted interviews with 54 health care staff from across Ontario, working in acute care, long-term care, and forensic or detoxification centres. The participants included nurses and PSWs, as well as orderlies, kitchen staff, security and maintenance workers.
"What we found was that violence was so widespread within the hospital system that everyone had direct experience with it," said Brophy.
"The dietary people coming in with your morning breakfast weren't being told — as an example — that there was a violent incident. So they'd literally walk into the room, unbeknownst to them, that this is a high risk environment."
Violence in health care normalized
The study also found that health care staff feel violence has become normalized within the industry.
"You'd never accept that level of violence in a retail or other service industry," said Keith.
"There were people who would go to their supervisor after they were grabbed or groped, and the supervisor would say, 'Well it's a good thing you're not hurt. You can go back to work and finish your shift.'"
Participants of the study recommended a number of prevention strategies, including increasing staffing, establishing zero tolerance policies and signage, simplifying the reporting process, offering in-person staff training and providing support for workers who have been injured on traumatized.
The researchers add that the problem of violence cannot be solved, unless the province provides more resources and more funding to these kinds of prevention strategies.
"We're hoping that the public recognizes that this is actually an indictment in a lot of ways, of the health care system itself," said Keith. "Our health care system needs help."