Kicked, bit, and hit, Ontario nurses want people to know about the violence they face

An alarming new commercial aims to highlight the violence that nurses in the province face in the workplace.

Commercials highlight workplace violence that nurses deal with on a regular basis

The Ontario Nurses' Association Local 8 has launched an anti-violence campaign, highlighting the issues that registered nurses face in the workplace. (Ontario Nurses' Association Local 8)

For many Ontario nurses, facing violence on a daily basis is just part of the job. 

"I've been kicked, I've been grabbed in pretty well every part of your body you can be grabbed, I've had my hair pulled, I've been spit on, I've been scratched, I've been threatened with everything from a  bedpan or a urinal to their flowers," said Susan Sommerdyk.

Sommerdyk is a registered nurse and is also the coordinator for the Ontario Nurses' Association Local 8 union, which represents registered nurses (RNs) in Windsor-Essex.

"There was a long time where for nurses it was considered part of the job, you were just supposed to suck it up," she said. "It's limitless what's happened."

On Wednesday, ONA Local 8 released an alarming new commercial which aims to highlight the violence that nurses in the province face in the workplace. 

Watch ONA's "Perspective" commercial:

The goal of the campaign is to show the public the violence that RNs and other frontline healthcare professionals experience in the workplace. 

"Locally we wanted to do something to raise awareness," said Sommerdyk. "I guarantee daily nurses are yelled at, hit, kicked, punched, something. Something happens everyday."

Sommerdyk said ONA wants people to know that it's not acceptable and people shouldn't have to go to work "worried about what's going to happen the next time they go in."

As a nurse, Susan Sommerdyk said she's been physically and verbally abused. As a coordinator for the Ontario Nurses' Association Local 8, she hopes a new anti-violence initiative will show people what nurses go through. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"I don't think any of us would send our children, our wives, husbands to work and expect that they go to work everyday to be verbally abused or physically abused by any person that feels that they can," she said. 

Poor funding leads to frustration

A lack of beds and funding leads to a lot of the frustration by patients, said Sommerdyk. 

"They start taking it out on the people they see the most," she said. "It's not acceptable but it's happening and we're seeing it at alarming rates."

Wait times for mental health patients are another problem, as facilities are overcapacity. And with an aging population in the province, care for dementia patients becomes challenging because of a lack of staffing, said Sommerdyk.

"You put all those together — you put lack of adequate funding for appropriate staffing, which ONA is constantly saying is not enough, and you're going to have issues," she said.

With files from Jason Viau