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According to experts, nurses are often physically assaulted at work. Fifty percent of nurses surveyed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) said they had been punched at least once in a two year period. Other nurses have claimed they have been strangled, sexually assaulted, and even stuck with contaminated needles.

A national survey conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association found that 86 percent of its nurses had reported being victims of workplace violence during the last three years. Nineteen percent of the nurses in the survey said they were frequently assaulted.

The MNA claims budget cuts, resulting in a shortage of nurses, are partly to blame for this problem. The Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA), an organization representing hospitals and health systems, agrees that violence in the workplace is a problem, but officials there don’t blame staffing levels.

Karen Nelson, senior vice president of clinical affairs at MHA, says assaults on nurses are more a product of a violent society, where mass shootings are no longer rare, than a nursing shortage. She calls the push to hire more nurses “a knee-jerk reaction.”

Most of the violence that has come up has been in the emergency room, but now general practice nurses are dealing with some violent patients. Some believe that teaching nurses how to deal with violent patients and increased security are the best ways to resolve the issue.

Now, the MNA is asking that nurses do not put up with this kind of treatment from patients as they have done in the past. The union wants the nurses to press charges if they feel they have been violently assaulted.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Workplace Injuries and Discrimination.

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