Nurses and other health care workers have long experienced workplace violence at epidemic proportions. Data collected by National Nurses United (NNU) show that the workplace violence epidemic in health care has accelerated since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. As Mawata Kamara, RN, stated in an October 2021 media interview, “Violence has always been a problem. The pandemic really just added a magnifying glass.”
The continued neglect of workplace violence prevention by health care employers has led to increasing rates of workplace violence during the pandemic. Failure to implement effective workplace violence prevention plans during the pandemic has also inhibited Covid-19 infection control, contributing to high Covid-19 rates among health care workers.
The hospital industry’s prioritization of profits over patient care has precipitated the dual failures to prepare for Covid-19 and prevent workplace violence, which act synergistically to exacerbate the harm caused by each individually — creating an occupational syndemic (from “syn” — synergy and “demic” — epidemic). The concept of a syndemic was first used to describe how diseases can converge and exacerbate each other
The occupational syndemic of Covid-19 and workplace violence amplifies the harms to nurses and other health care workers more frequently and severely than each occupational epidemic individually. In addition to physical illness and injuries from Covid-19 and workplace violence, nurses experience high rates of moral distress and mental health harm from the synergistically amplified impacts of their employers’ failure to prevent workplace violence and Covid-19.
An enforceable national workplace violence prevention standard is necessary, which can be efficiently achieved by Congress passing the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act which has languished in committee since April 2021.
In May the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) put forward a draft of proposed regulations for workplace violence prevention proposing changes to language, procedures and data collection. Cal/OSHA is seeking input on the proposed revisions and is inviting interested parties to submit written comments by July 18, 2022.
If you’ve experience violence in the workplace, contact our California attorneys. Our experienced legal team knows the law and can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights. Our lawyers are compassionate and discreet, and we empathize with victims who have experienced violence in the workplace. We can explain how you may be entitled to recover damages.