The Unseen Battle

It’s no secret that healthcare professionals are called into this field of work because they are compassionate and want to help others, especially those in vulnerable situations. They dedicate their time and energy to providing the care necessary to help patients and their families feel safe, heard, and seen.

While providing necessary care, it’s important to recognize that many courageous healthcare professionals experience the unseen battle of violence and aggression. The World Health Organization reports that between 8% and 38% of healthcare workers experience physical violence during their careers, with nurses and others providing direct care being the most affected. Unfortunately, there are even higher rates of threats and other kinds of verbal aggression.

Two local nurses were willing to share their stories surrounding the types of violence and aggression they faced while working and the impact that it had on them.

An operating room nurse described feeling fearful for her well-being in certain situations related to how people come out of the anesthesia differently. It was typical for middle-aged men having a certain type of surgery to wake up with unintentional aggression. This situation could be difficult especially if the surgery was after hours and the number of staff on duty was reduced. Even though the aggression was unintentional, it would still make her feel uneasy each time she was the nurse on duty for this surgery. She outlined the importance of trusting your gut, and relying on your colleagues, as well as the physicians and security staff.

Another nurse recalls multiple occasions where she was called a type of profanity, scratched, pinched, and swung at. There was even one occasion where a patient tried to throw a chair at her while she was pregnant. She describes knowing that none of these things were personal and it’s important to note that each of these patients was dealing with a diagnosis that alters their state of mind. It’s not always easy to go on caring for your patients when you’re fearful of what could happen, but you know that they still need to be cared for. She notes the importance of relying on your colleagues, including the phenomenal security staff within the hospital, as well as debriefing if you’re finding certain situations harder to process.

You may never know what a healthcare professional has dealt with during their day. The next time you encounter one, let them know their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Kindly tell them “Thank you for what you do,” and it’s a safe bet that it will brighten their day.

~ Tavin Smith, RN, BN ~