I must say that everyone is pretty good about conducting a home safety assessment. Throw rugs are removed, lights are bright and shiny and and much of the work done by therapists is to reach the goal of the patient being able to safely navigate in the home environment. Geaux, Team!
We’re missing something. What about employee safety in the work environment? Everyday home health and hospice nurses, aides, MSW’s and social workers go into homes where they are separated from the agency and out of view of anyone who might help them. All but the most serious incidents are overlooked.
In addition to the injuries that happen regularly such as sprains, abrasions and other musculoskeletal injuries due to moving patients, these are routinely addressed in orientation and annual inservices. A risk of workplace violence also exists and recent research shows it is more prevalent than you may think.
Homecare workers (n = 1,214) reported past-year incidents of verbal aggression (50.3% of respondents), workplace aggression (26.9%), workplace violence (23.6%), sexual harassment (25.7%), and sexual aggression (12.8%). Exposure was associated with greater stress (p < .001), depression (p < .001), sleep problems (p < .001), and burnout (p < .001). Confidence in addressing workplace aggression buffered homecare workers against negative work and health outcomes.1
The CDC along with NIOSH has published an online Continuing Education course addressing workplace violence for healthcare workers. It is not specific to visiting nurses but does offer useful advice. It also offers 2.4 continuing education credit but if you want the credit, read the ‘instructions for credit on the first page. It is provided at no cost and includes short video clips, written text and discussion questions.
In taking this course, I learned that when adhering to the strict definitions of Workplace Violence, many homecare workers have experience with verbal and physical aggression. We also under report workplace violence and ‘forgive’ our patients. It may be a fact of life that nurses eat their young but it doesn’t have to be and agencies should not tolerate bullying of their employees. Regardless of the kind of workplace violence that takes place, visiting staff may suffer stress, depression, insomnia and burnout as noted in the study cited above. Without support from management, the agency’s morale will deteriorate to the point where nothing gets done.
If you know of any other resources to reduce the risk of workplace violence in the workplace, please share in the comments. Our workplace includes most zip codes in the country and all types of people. Reducing the risk of violence and supporting visiting workers can go a long way to making sure you’re agency doesn’t lose its best employees to burnout.
Hanson, G. C., Perrin, N. A., Moss, H., Laharnar, N., & Glass, N. (2015). Workplace violence against homecare workers and its relationship with workers health outcomes: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 15, 11. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-014-1340-7