The Daily Journal Guest Commentary

The following commentary was published in the Daily Journal Weekend edition on August 20, 2022:

Healthcare workers have chosen to enter a career that at its core is about helping people. Yet, in recent months, those who are here to help have increasingly found themselves the victims of violence as they try to do their jobs. Violence against healthcare workers has been on the rise throughout the pandemic, and sadly, that trend is continuing across the country, and here at Riverside as well.

National statistics support what we have seen. For example, 44% of nurses reported experiencing physical violence and 68% reported experiencing verbal abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of these behaviors go well beyond the incidents themselves. Not only does violence cause physical and psychological injury for healthcare workers, workplace violence and intimidation make it more difficult for nurses, doctors and other staff to provide quality patient care. Staff cannot provide attentive care when they are afraid for their personal safety, distracted by disruptive patients and family members, or traumatized from prior violent interactions.

In addition, violent interactions at health care facilities tie up valuable resources and can delay urgently needed care for other patients. Studies show that workplace violence reduces patient satisfaction and employee productivity, and increases the potential for adverse medical events. As we work to retain and add more staff, these instances of verbal abuse, intimidation and acts of violence, undermine our ability to recruit team members.

There are efforts underway that may help.  Recently, the bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representative. The bill is modeled after the federal statute protecting aircraft and airport workers and would make it a federal crime to assault or intimidate a hospital employee and as a result interfere with the ability of that employee to perform their duties. It would also apply enhanced penalties to acts that involve dangerous weapons, result in bodily injury or are committed during an emergency declaration, as well as other provisions. In Illinois, there is proposed legislation that would expand protections for all healthcare workers when performing their duties. Current law only applies to aggravated battery against nurses. We support these bills and hope they result in getting healthcare workers the protections they so greatly deserve.

We understand that people who find themselves in the healthcare setting may be suffering from illness, physical and/or emotional pain and stress, or may be watching a loved go through these difficulties. These challenges require compassion and understanding on all sides.

At Riverside, we have placed signs in the elevators that are meant to be reminders of the importance of respectful behavior. “Creating a healing environment takes all of us,” the signs say. “Your words matter. Your behaviors matter. Our patients and our teams matter. Please show respect and consideration for all patients, visitors and staff.”

Hopefully, these signs will remind those who see them that healing is a group effort. The people who have opted to make a career of caring for those in need should be able to provide that care without having to worrying for their own safety.

Phillip M. Kambic,

Riverside Healthcare

 President and CEO