The need to keep nurses safe at hospitals and medical facilities across the province including Prince George and the North is being brought up once again by the BC Nurses Union.
This comes following the violent assault of a female nurse in Abbotsford this week where a patient used an exercise weight as a weapon leaving her with a broken jaw, fractured cheekbone as well as other serious head and facial injuries.
BCNU president Christine Sorensen told Vista Radio while she’s not aware of any recent incidents within the northern health region, it’s not uncommon for nurses to keep quiet when something like this takes place.
“Oftentimes nurses don’t report violent events that happen particularly when a patient is yelling or screaming at them or pinches them or hits them and there seems to be this sort of belief in the healthcare system that its part of the job.”
“We need to change the narrative out there in the public that it’s OK to yell or scream or pinch or hit a nurse, we need to change that and changing legislation will certainly set that tone.”
She adds the continued violence and disrespect towards nurses has reached a critical point where some people are steering away from a career in this field.
“I hear from people who are making decisions to not enter nursing because of the care environment and not because they are not interested in the career or challenge and complexity of the patient care but they are very concerned about their own personal safety.”
“Thankfully, we still have enough students applying into nurses programs and I would like nursing programs to expand because we are in an acute nursing shortage in the province and we need more nurses. We need to retain and recruit every nurse we can get our hands on and keep them in our system,” explained Sorensen.
Sorenson adds this is even truer on the retention side of things due to the exact same safety concerns.
“On the retention end, it’s one of the reasons nurses citing to us that they are leaving. The health care system is no longer safe for them to work in, they are tired of becoming for a lack of a better term punching bags for patients and they are tired of being abused.”
The BCNU President would like both the federal and provincial government do more to make crimes against nurses a lot less tolerable.
“What we have been asking for is that this becomes a legislative change that all actions of violence against a nurse is considered in the course of an aggravated assault charge.”
“I absolutely think the government is complicit in every act of violence that happens in this country against a nurse. They have the ability to make policy and legislative changes that protect nurses and ensure our healthcare sites continue to be a place of refuge and not places where our nurses are victims of violence.”
As for what increased security measures Sorensen would like to see, the addition of safety officers would be a good place to start.
“The position and the role that we’re looking for are trained safety officers that are able to manage patients who are perpetrators of violence and are there to help de-escalate aggression, physical violence and go hands-on when any sort of violence may occur.”
Since 2017, BCNU has been running the ‘Violence. Not Part of the Job’ campaign, which has raised awareness about the systemic violence nurses face on a daily basis.