In any industry, there are a number of ways for professionals to wind up severely hurt through the course of their work. For those who work in the medical profession, physical injuries can often result from exposure to dangerous machinery or overexertion, which can occur when staff members attempt to move or lift heavy patients.
However, there are other risk factors that medical workers face, including the potential for violence from patients in their care. Roughly one in 10 injuries (approximately 9%) suffered by hospital workers relate to violence in the workplace. There are a number of scenarios in which a patient may pose an increased risk of bodily injury to medical staff.
Individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol can behave erratically
If you work in an emergency room or urgent care facility, the risk is always there for someone to come seeking treatment because they ingested too much alcohol or dangerous drugs. Those under the influence of intoxicating substances can behave in dangerous and unpredictable ways.
For example, certain drugs may provoke feelings of paranoia, leading to a patient viewing medical care providers as a threat rather than a source of help. Other drugs can make people agitated or more energetic than usual.
Individuals worried about facing arrest because of the drugs they use or what they did while under the influence may become aggressive toward staff in an attempt to leave the facility against medical advice. The same is true of anyone police officers bring in for medical care or evaluation while under arrest.
Those experiencing mental health issues can also be dangerous
Mental health is one of the most ignored areas of modern medicine. Individuals with symptoms of serious conditions, ranging from personality disorders to degenerative diseases of the mind, may avoid reporting their symptoms or seeking treatment because of the social stigma attached to mental health conditions.
The lack of diagnosis or care may mean that by the time an individual comes to seek medical care, they are experiencing a psychotic episode or have otherwise devolved from the person they usually are. A person who is experiencing a psychotic or schizoaffective episode may not understand what is real and what is a product of their altered brain chemistry. They may lash out at staff members unpredictably, even if they are typically compliant.
Some patients will simply push, kick or even bite caregivers in a moment of desperation. Others may arm themselves with impromptu weapons they find in the facility, ranging from cutlery used at meals to syringes or heavy equipment.
Medical providers should always be on alert for signs of instability and patience. They should also report any injuries that result from a patient attack as soon as possible to management or human resources to ensure they can access workers’ compensation benefits to recover from the violence they experienced at work.