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Workers’ Compensation Claims Rising Among Healthcare Employees

Casey Woodruff

undefinedWhen we think about workplace injuries, many of us envision construction sites or other places that seem to have inherent dangers. However, according to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report, healthcare workers—particularly nursing staff—are at serious risk of violent injuries caused by psychiatrically unstable patients. Indeed, the article indicates that, between 2012 and 2014, “injuries caused by patients nearly doubled among nurses and nurse assistants.” And based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “in 2013 psychiatric aides experienced work-related violent injuries that resulted in days away from work at a rate 10 times higher than the next group—nursing assistants.”

In other words, more healthcare workers than ever are filing workers’ compensation claims as a result of injuries caused by patients. Are these injuries preventable?

Workers’ Compensation Claims in the Healthcare Industry Should Not Be Normalized

The article suggests, one of the reasons that healthcare workers miss so many days away from work due to patient outbursts, is that “injury to healthcare providers once was culturally accepted as part of the job.” However, injuries to nurses and nursing aides caused by violent patients should not be occurrences that we normalize. About 75 percent of all injuries as a result of workplace violence happen in the healthcare and social services fields, which is a total of around 26,000 worker injuries.  In light of this finding, we need to ask ourselves whether there is more we can do to prevent these injuries from taking place.

Indeed, some commentators believe that workplace violence—resulting in workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims—is increasing in the healthcare arena. While a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida argues that workplace violence is largely underreported and thus difficult to pinpoint a precisely yearly figure, others disagree. According to Jill Arzouman, the president of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, “I would have to say that violence against nurses has increased.”

Types of Workplace Violence

What kinds of workplace violence leads to injuries and workers’ compensation claims at hospitals and other medical facilities? Most often, these injuries result from violent patient outbursts. As Arzouman explains, “a number of people wait until the last minute to come in, and they are sicker so they are more frustrated when they get into the healthcare facility.” In some cases, that frustration can result in violent physical reactions. Nurses and other healthcare aides are also at risk of injury from psychiatric patients who may be more prone to violence.

Yet healthcare employees can also be the targets of workplace violence when family members get upset or angry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are many ways for employers to prevent workplace violence. However, OSHA clearly “singled out reduced funding for mental health services as a cause for concern.” In other words, investing in mental health services may result in fewer workplace injuries and fewer days missed.

Workers’ compensation claims can be complicated, particularly if your injury resulted from an act of workplace violence. It is important to have an experienced Aurora workers’ compensation attorney on your side to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans today to discuss your claim.

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