We began this week seeing alarming figures being released showing a whopping 3,462 incidents of physical assaults recorded by the HSE over the last five years. Almost 70% of assaults were against frontline staff, with 2,372 incidents recorded against nurses, midwives, psychiatric nurses or other nursing staff.
The role of a Nurse is a risky one as is that of a Care Worker and indeed a Security Attendant in our health care settings. These staff are exposed to physical and psychological injuries every day they turn up for work and today we learn just how many are actually the subject of an assault. Unfortunately, I am not surprised by the figures. I have come, through my practice as a Solicitor, to meet with many nurses and care workers who have suffered terrible injuries when they have been assaulted at work.
For example, I recently acted for a healthcare worker who was assaulted by one of the clients in the healthcare facility that she worked in. The health care facility was a high secure residential facility. The healthcare worker was physically assaulted by one of the clients and suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result. This client had a history of assaulting staff and it was clear that inadequate training had been provided to staff members. We were able to demonstrate this and succeeded in negotiating a five figure settlement sum. I also have advised Psychiatric Nurses who have been exposed to devastating injuries because of assaults. Again, the main issues that we look at, include the history of the person who carried out the assault, the appropriateness of the facility and what training was given to the staff member.
As well as residential facilities, staff are facing a continuing crisis in the Emergency Departments of our hospitals where they are regularly exposed to volatile persons without any or any adequate support or training. This results in injuries varying from bruises to broken limbs to a significant psychological fall-out.
What has struck me is that many of these people almost expect that they will suffer injuries in their job. In my experience, they will endure a lot and will carry on as best they can with their jobs. This derives from a sense of hard work, but also from an ethos within the HSE that “it’s part of the job”. Yes, working in the Healthcare sector brings with it difficult situations and conflict, but that does not mean that violence and aggression should be tolerated. The reality is that these persons, no more than any other person in their place of work, should not be exposed to injuries by their employers. Unfortunately, it is quite clear from today’s publication that the HSE are failing abysmally in that regard and more must be done to protect healthcare workers. In fact, because of the “it’s part of the job” ethos I believe that the 2,372 reported incidents are a gross underestimate of the true position.
For those care workers reading this article, if you have been injured, you may not know what to do next. I have tried to set out below a snap shot of the steps that you should take;
Medical Attention - Make sure you get the appropriate medical attention as soon possible for your injury.
Report it! – It may seem obvious but when you are injured you may forget how important it is to report the incident to your superiors. You may be asked to complete an accident report form and you should ask your employer about that and seek a copy.
Who was there? - We recommend that you keep a note of any witnesses to the accident. If we are consulted at a later stage about your accident, we will speak to those witnesses.
Seek Advice - You may need advice on a Personal Injury claim* and what to do if you are out of work. Your employer does not have to pay you while you are out of work, unless it is provided for in a sick pay scheme. Often HSE employees will be entitled to sick pay unless their sick days are expired. Nurses have come to me with queries about their sick pay, visits to Occupational Health and applications to retire on grounds of ill-health.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.