Health workers are the most vulnerable group of employees globally. Majority work under poor conditions and are never paid enough. These workers never get enough rest and just when you think that that is too much to take, these workers can suffer immensely at the hands of a patient.

Health workers are at high risk of violence all over the world. Between 8% and 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. Many more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression. Most violence is perpetrated by patients and visitors. Also in disaster and conflict situations, health workers may become the targets of collective or political violence. Categories of health workers most at risk include nurses and other staff directly involved in patient care, emergency room staff and paramedics.

Violence against health workers is unacceptable. It has not only a negative impact on the psychological and physical well-being of health-care staff, but also affects their job motivation. As a consequence, this violence compromises the quality of care and puts health-care provision at risk. It also leads to immense financial loss in the health sector.

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One of the factors that are suspected to contribute to doctor -patient strain is the poorly structured health system. Health workers work longer hours with many patients. Patients on the other hand expect to be given first class treatment by a doctor who is already overwhelmed. This is an ingredient for disaster.

Doctor-patient strains
But I wonder whether the rising tide of violence against doctors and nurses is more emblematic of a dysfunctional health system. Patients are learning that healthcare is a commodity. I see firsthand the deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship, as physicians are pressured to see more patients in shorter amounts of time. Patients are rightly frustrated, and some are lashing out.

Sometimes the simplest approaches are the most effective. Rather than adding security or installing metal detectors to prevent hospital violence, doctors and nurses could do a better job of empathizing with patients who are under stress when they are hospitalized or are angry because they’ve waited hours for medical care. At the same time, patients must realize that health care professionals are doing the best they can with an overtaxed health care system and should never resort to violence or abuse.

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Hospitals and any other medical care center should work towards creating a patient safety culture and at the same time a work friendly environment. Everybody wants to feel appreciated.

Behavior-management techniques including training, goal-setting and feedback have been shown to increase clinicians’ use of basic safety procedures such as hand sanitization, often doubling the proportion of workers in compliance, according to a literature review coauthored by Geller.

Employee Engagement Boosts Patient Safety
Company culture alone isn’t enough to hold off all potential medical errors; a successful patient-safety program must encompass both systems and people. Take medication, for example, where systems are available to match bar codes on individual doses with patient identification bracelets. “With bar coding for correct medication, if the system doesn’t fit into the workflow of nurses, they may use workarounds,” which are likely to increase the chance of errors, says Federico.

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