California Healthline Daily Edition

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Analysis Finds Violence Against Hospital Staff Commonplace in State

In California and across the U.S., violence against nurses and other hospital workers is common, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of surveys, interviews and state records, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Details of the Violence

Violence occurs most often in emergency departments and psychiatric wards, according to hospital staff, researchers and security officials.

A 2009 study in the Annals of Epidemiology found that some hospital staff in California had not reported instances of assault because they consider it to be part of their job.

A 2007 survey conducted by UC-San Francisco found that nearly 40% of ED staff in California said they had been assaulted in the previous year.

The Times review found that although most attacks do not end in serious injury, hundreds have resulted in workers' compensation claims in recent years.

California regulations stipulate that all significant injuries must be reported to state officials, but the law is unclear about what "significant" entails.

Reasons for Increase in Violence

Industry experts and hospital staff say it is difficult to pinpoint specific reasons behind the increase in violence because of a lack of record-keeping.

Bonnie Castillo, head of the California Nurses Association, said nurses can be discouraged by hospital officials from reporting assaults because of concerns that the incident will compromise the hospital's image as a "safe haven."

According to the Times, increasing wait times brought on by growing numbers of unemployed and uninsured patients who seek care in EDs could have a role in the increase in violence.

In addition, patients with acute mental health issues are going to hospitals because of a lack of consistent outpatient care.

Hospitals' Response

Since a violent incident at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in 1993, several major urban hospitals have installed metal detectors and posted armed police officers in EDs.

Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president for external affairs for the California Hospital Association, said hospitals are generally "very safe."

She added that most facilities have procedures to follow in case there is trouble (Garrison/Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, 7/31).

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