With today’s news about a hospital shooting in Boston, workplace safety for nurses is again foremost in many nurses’ minds.

And while nurses often run the risk of workplace injuries like muscle pulls from moving patients to something as serious as a needle stick, the idea of a hospital shooting is almost unthinkable. As today’s news shows, it happens.

How can nurses remain protected from workplace violence?

Be Aware

It goes without saying that being aware of your surroundings and what is happening in your environment is standard safety protocol. Nurses know that things happen fast in a hospital and that seconds matter. Practice being aware of your surroundings in all kinds of scenarios. For a challenge, note the descriptions of people around you, of family members accompanying patients, of clusters of people, or even of out-of-place bags or objects. Make a habit of it and soon it will become second nature. Awareness is critical to your safety.

Trust Your Instincts

Do you ever get a funny feeling when something doesn’t feel quite right to you? That’s your instinct telling you to pay attention – trust it. If a situation feels like it is getting out of control, call in help and notify your colleagues. It’s better to call attention to something harmless than not mention something or someone that is potentially threatening.

Know Your Workplace Security Procedure

Do you have security on staff or do you rely on local police for problems? Review the procedure for different scenarios with your staff or request it from your supervisors. You should know what to do in all kinds of situations – an agitated patient, an armed family member, unrest outside that overflows into your workplace, a fight. All those situations have the potential to turn violent in an instant. Your protection comes from knowing what to do.

Speak Up

If your workplace is lacking in basic workplace violence prevention measures, demand change. Find out what will help protect you and your colleagues and bring your ideas to the attention of your supervisor and administration. Ask your legislators to support workplace violence prevention laws and programs. And always report any incidents of violence in your workplace.

Learn More

Workplace violence is such a hot topic that the Centers for Disease Control even has a course for nurses. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses addresses the unique nature of violence in a health care setting. Work with local nursing organizations and local and national government officials to make workplace safety in a health care setting a priority. Consider taking a personal safety course so you know how to protect yourself if needed.

Workplace violence can happen anywhere, but nurses know the unique atmosphere of a health care setting can change rapidly and without notice. Keeping yourself safe is the best way you can help yourself and your patients.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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