Health

Emergency room security still needs improvement, says nurses union, NSHA

Updates still needed, one year after NSHA recommendations were implemented

Violence assessments have been done for all 25 emergency departments in the province.   Nermeen Ramadan

Workplace violence is still an ongoing issue in Nova Scotia emergency rooms, despite recommended policy changes.

Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, said there were 800 reports of violence in 2017. Sixty-six workers were on workers’ compensation because of incidents that range from being shouted at by a patient to being hit by a chair.

Hazelton said there are likely more cases that have not been reported.

“Some nurses could get pushed and say ‘I’m not reporting that’, or get yelled at and say ‘I’m not reporting that,’” Hazelton said at a news conference on Thursday. “Our staff deserve to go home healthy, a little tired, but healthy.”

The news conference was held a year after a report was released containing 12 recommendations to make the workplace safer.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • Training and debriefing to show staff how to deal with violent situations and asking them to report on them immediately
  • Give staff communication devices if they are alone with patients
  • Set up an NSHA-wide system to track incident and injury reports
  • Install an alert system that will notify staff of potential dangers.

Hazleton said 10 or 15 years ago if an employee was yelled at they were told it was part of their job.

“Now violence in emergency departments is not tolerated at all; Nova Scotians need to know that,” she said.

Hazelton gave an example of what a nurse is required to do, if faced with violence.  

“If a nurse is put in a situation where a patient is being violent, the nurse is asked to report (it) right away to her employer,” she said. “Later two nurses could be assigned to take care of the patient.”

Working in emergency rooms is very difficult, especially if patients have waited for too long, or if they are on medication that may irritate them, said Hazelton. She added that the employees working in emergency rooms understand what patients are going through and their frustration.

“We will work with families and patients, but they need to understand that violence is not acceptable,” she said.

Carmelle d’Entremont, vice-president of people and organizational development with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, agreed violence shouldn’t be the norm.

“We need to work on the security section; that is an outstanding piece of work,” d’Entremont said during the news conference.

A January progress report has been released to show how far the recommendations have come in a year.

Regarding security, the report noted several things that still need to be improved, including:

  • Security must be provided with appropriate equipment as determined by risk assessment.
  • Security must be provided with training in order to know how to solve violent instances.

Hazelton said the NSHA, nurses’ union and other organizations will continue to work closely to ensure the recommendations are followed in the coming years.