According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 1.7 million injuries per year due to workplace assaults, representing 18% of all violent crime in the United States.
A recent article appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) focuses on the 73 homicides that occurred in health care settings, as well as the 20 in hospitals. Comparing the 12 physicians and 15 nurses who were victims in a health care environment with the taxi drivers and cashiers, the study notes that the rate of assaults among health care professionals is 8 in 10,000, compared with 2 in 10,000 for the private sector in general.
The article, “Violence in the Health Care Setting,” notes that hospitals are no longer the institutions of safety as previously thought by society:
“There was a time when physicians were viewed with reverence and hospitals were considered sanctuaries. This deferential view has increasingly eroded over the last 2 decades because of several disparate but intertwined forces. Health care today is somewhat rightfully portrayed as a commodity, bought and sold on stock exchanges. Patients are now considered consumers by many. Hospitals compete on product lines and strive to gain market share. Medical services, like other service industries, are evaluated by publicly reported percentile rankings in patient satisfaction. Many patients are left to navigate an increasingly complex medical system, while increased specialization and rushed primary care physicians leave many without a meaningful patient-physician relationship.”
The complete article, which can be read online at JAMA or in its print edition, opines that while hospitals have an obligation to maintain a safe environment, perhaps the bigger issue is the role violence plays in our society, not to mention how we address it.