How Workplace Violence Impacts Home Health Nurses

As the demand for home healthcare grows, so does the risk of workplace violence for home health nurses.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that home healthcare is one of America’s fastest-growing industries, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 5% for 2014–2024, which equals approximately 760,400 new jobs. With patients’ continued preference to remain at home and advances in telemedicine, home health nurses will continue to be a major area of growth within the healthcare industry.

Workplace violence has long been a challenge in health care, with healthcare workers accounting for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in the U.S. prior to 2019. Unfortunately, studies continue to show that workplace violence incident rates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. And although certain clinical settings, such as emergency departments or psychiatric/behavioral health units, have high rates of workplace violence incidents, home healthcare workers are often placed in situations that make them particularly likely to encounter workplace violence.

Home health risk factors

Home health nurses are often the only caregivers present while delivering home healthcare. This can result in an unprotected environment, depending on the patient’s behavior. Other people in the home, such as a friend or family member may also be responsible for causing workplace violence.

Verbal abuse from the patient, family members, or others in the care setting is considered a form of workplace violence, along with physical abuse, stalking, or threats of abuse.

Cara Lunsford, RN, Founder and CEO of HOLLIBLU and Vice President of Community at Relias, has long understood the physical and mental implications of providing home health nursing care. “Home health and hospice can be challenging, and at times, come with some major safety concerns,” Lunsford explained.

“Nurses are expected to go into private homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, without any prior knowledge of the family dynamics that exist within that household. Sometimes patients or family members are struggling with mental illness which can put the home health nurse in a very vulnerable situation if the environment proves to be unsafe,” she added.

Impacts of workplace violence

The nursing profession is challenging on its own, but workplace violence incidents can bring added stress and difficulties to the role.

One study involving home care nurses found that exposure to workplace violence was associated with greater stress, depression, sleep problems, and burnout. Of the participants, 50% reported incidents of verbal aggression, 26% noted workplace aggression, 23% experienced workplace violence, and 25% encountered sexual harassment — just from the previous year.

The study noted that confidence in addressing workplace aggression buffered homecare workers against negative work and health outcomes. This factor is key to taking steps to reducing workplace violence incidents and their effects on the nursing workforce. Increasing nurses’ support of reporting workplace violence can help to better identify where, when, and what types of workplace violence are present to better address the issue.

Addressing workplace violence in home healthcare

An article from The Joint Commission Journal …read more

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