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Health Workers Have Become Targets of Violence Amid COVID-19

Not only are health care workers across the world waking up daily to face indescribable conditions and psychological strains amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have also unfortunately become a target for attacks, abuse, and violence as they continue to work on the front lines. Healthcare facilities and hospitals have had to take extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of their staff, on top of trying to control the global pandemic.

According to the Economist, the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 38% of physicians worldwide have suffered physical violence at some point in their careers, and in many places it is worse. One in seven NHS staff in England said they have been physically attacked by a patient or member of the public within a 12-month period in 2019. One in three Australian doctors also reported similar abuse, and over 75% of India’s physicians say they have faced violent threats at work. Shocking statistics, especially considering these health workers have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Related Blog: What is Lateral Violence in Nursing?

What Have U.S. Health Workers Faced During the Pandemic?

A recent article from the Miami Herald outlined the new dangers health care employees have faces during their battle with the coronavirus.

The Associated Press reported that in Cortlandt, New York, nurses had just finished a grueling overnight shift caring for COVID-19 patients to find their tires had been slashed in the parking lot. A shocking 22 vehicles were slashed outside of the New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, which will cover the costs for those impacted. This occurred right after dozens of firefighters and police officers had gathered outside the building to cheer on the health care workers, according to the Miami Herald.

Patients have been hostile toward workers at the front desks, with some even trashing their lobbies, coughing, and spitting on health care workers, Dr. J.D. Zipkin, associate medical director of Northwell Health – GoHealth Urgent Care Centers told Reuters.

Related Blog: Why Healthcare Organizations Must Check-In on their Employees

A nurse in Oklahoma was attacked on her way to work at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Officials say the alleged perpetrator believed that due the nurse's role in healthcare, they were exposing the community to COVID-19, according to OKC Fox. OU Medicine released the following joint statement:

“Public health emergencies are stressful times for people and communities but unfortunately, today, one of our nurses was a victim of an act of violence in the community while on their way to work. The alleged perpetrator believed that due to the nurse’s role in healthcare, they were exposing the community to COVID-19. Healthcare workers receive comprehensive training on proper use of personal protective equipment, protocols and ways to protect themselves and others. OU Medicine stands in support of all healthcare workers, dedicating their lives to taking care of all of us. We are working with this employee and all of our employees to ensure their safety and appreciate the community’s ongoing support.”

Why Are These Attacks Happening? 

Demonstrations of violence towards health workers have been varying from protests outside of health premises to hospitals being set on fire, from roadblocks to stone-throwing at ambulances, from verbal threats to physical aggressions against health care employees, according to BMJ.

Attacks from patients or families have been reported worldwide originating from health care workers attempt to implement some essential, but unpopular, COVID-19 prevention measures. This includes placing family members in quarantine or not allowing family to visit those who are sick. Additionally, other attacks of violence have been due to misconceptions about the spread of the virus. Some have thought health care workers are spreading COVID-19 within the communities, due to being exposed on a daily basis.

Related Blog: Most State Laws to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare Fail  to Protect Traveling Nurses

How Can You Protect Your Health Care Employees? 

Many healthcare organizations are turning to increased security, conducting frequent wellness checks, and are leveraging employee safety apps to help protect their workers.

For facilities looking to invest in an employee safety app, the following features can be extremely helpful during this unprecedented time. Especially with many health professionals being targeted for attacks on top of struggling with mental health disorders due to the trauma of being exposed to COVID-19.

Virtual Escort 

Doctors and nurses may feel more comfortable if they have a virtual escort when leaving a hospital or other healthcare facility. An employee safety app with this feature will add an additional layer of security for workers. Users can choose to have either their peers or security monitor their walk, ensuring they’ll reach their destination safely. If a problem were to arise, security will immediately be notified and have access to the user’s location as well as other key information. Users can also easily click an emergency button within the app if an emergency situation were to escalate.

Two-Way Messaging Capabilities

An employee safety app with two-way messaging capabilities can be extremely useful amid today’s pandemic. If an employee were to see a suspicious individual, they could confidentially report this via SMS text message which would only go to an already designated team. This team can immediately respond and then coordinate whether security should get involved.

Comprehensive Resource Directory 

Healthcare organizations can keep vital contact information, policies and procedures, emergency plans, and mental health resources within a comprehensive resource directory right in the employee safety app. Users will stay in the know and have access to everything within the directory.

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Tara Gibson
Tara Gibson

Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!

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