Does workers' compensation cover violence against ER nurses?

Nurses from the emergency department of a San Francisco hospital reportedly filed a complaint about safety in their work environment with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The nurses claim they have not received safety training related to workplace violence in the past two years. Further complaints involve the chronic state of understaffing and administration negligence, all contributing to circumstances in which they are exposed to violence, which often lead to workers' compensation claims.

The ER nurses allege that they are discouraged from filing reports about violent incidents. They say a recent incident involved a patient who had a loaded gun, and staff members are frequently hurt and beaten by patients. The spokesperson for the nurses says they do not blame the patients but the continuous state of understaffing instead. Another problem is the overcrowding because of the growing number of drug-addicted, homeless and often mentally ill patients who are admitted without increasing the number of ER nurses.

Reportedly, the trauma center has 58 beds but accommodated 70,000 patients in 2018. The complaint states that, along with the increasing number of patients, the levels of trauma they report are also increasing. However, employing more staff, and providing safety training that will teach them how to deal with potentially violent situations receive no consideration by hospital management.

Although the California workers' compensation system covers the medical expenses and lost wages of injured workers, being the victim of workplace violence does a lot more than physical and financial damage. Even those who are not assaulted or otherwise injured during violent incidents work with the constant fear of being attacked during each shift they work. The ongoing trauma can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, which can have long-term health consequences. It might be a good idea for these nurses to consult with an attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of workers to advocate for them.

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