Virna Bation, a nurse who’s worked in elder care for 17 years, never expected that her attempt to help a patient would turn violent. A 75-year-old resident suddenly became agitated while Bation was providing care and bit Bation’s thumb so badly that it sent her to the emergency department and kept her off work for three months.
“The pain was excruciating,” she says. “Emotionally and physically, I was really distraught. When I remember what happened, I feel shaky.”
Bation’s experience is not unique. In fact, violence in BC health care facilities has reached shocking levels.
According to WorkSafeBC’s 2015 annual report, the overall injury rate due to workplace violence has increased over 50 percent since 2006. In the past decade, 9,231 injury claims due to violence have been accepted from health care and social services workers – that’s nearly three injuries a day.
The stories are the driving force behind a new awareness campaign launched by the BC Nurses’ Union that is calling on the government and health authorities to improve working conditions for nurses.
“We are determined to see a number of solutions come from this awareness campaign, including the addition of trained security personnel at sites 24/7, enhanced education in workplace violence and legislated changes to the criminal code for harsher sentences for those who perpetrate violence against nurses.” says President Gayle Duteil.
“When it comes to nurses, there’s a chronic underreporting of violent incidents,” says Duteil.
“Often when it is reported, the manager comes back and says, ‘What could you have done differently?’ This is like blaming the spouse for getting beaten. We need to educate our management, the public, and our nurses that violence is not part of the job and it’s not their fault.”
The campaign’s television ad will begin broadcasting around the province on Monday, March 13. Nurses and members of the public are encouraged to visit BCNU’s website for more information.