N.S. nurses use TV ads to sound alarm over workplace violence
Days after charges were laid in connection with an attack on a pregnant nurse, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union is using television ads to sound the alarm over violence in the workplace.
A 28-year-old female patient is accused of attacking the nurse, who was 33-weeks pregnant, at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth on April 23.
The nurse was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The patient has been charged with one count each of uttering threats and aggravated assault in connection with the incident at the psychiatric hospital.
The incident has raised concerns about security measures at the psychiatric hospital, and at Nova Scotia hospitals in general.
Emergency nurse Jen Thiele says workplace violence is a concern she knows all too well. Thiele loves her job, but after 15 years in the profession, she says she is haunted by her own experience.
“I couldn’t believe it because I’m here to help you, and you’re treating me like I’m not a human,” says Thiele.
While many cases of workplace violence involve physical abuse or assault, Thiele says her life was threatened and her abuse was verbal.
“She turned to me and said, ‘I’m going to f------ punch you in your f------ glasses you f------ bitch,’” she recalls.
Thiele isn’t alone. According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, healthcare workers are seeing an increase in assaults, violent acts, attacks and harassment on the job.
There were 727 incidents of workplace violence against Canadian healthcare workers reported in 2011, and 733 cases in 2012. That number rose to 827 in 2013.
Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, says they receive reports daily.
“Every day, five to 10 cases ranging from verbal abuse, right up to and including concussions because they have been physically abused, got a concussion or a sprained wrist or a black eye, and they’re off work,” says Hazelton.
The issue has prompted the union to create an ad campaign, raising awareness about the dangers nurses face on the job, and calling for an end to workplace violence.
“When a nurse has to take care of a violent patient, five patients are not receiving the care that they need, because all the resources are in trying to bring that patient back to their ground,” says Thiele.
The union says it also results in lost time in a workplace that is already challenged due to staffing shortages.
Nurses are also being encouraged to file charges with violent incidents occur.
Wtih files from CTV Atlantic's Marie Adsett