Increased patient violence leaves nursing students feeling unsafe

An increasingly violent workplace for health care workers has emphasized the importance of violence prevention training for Langara nursing students


By Cala Ali

A Langara nursing student says nurses fear for their safety because of the high volume of patients under their care.

Jennie Takata, a third-year Langara nursing student, said the B.C. nurse-to-patient imbalance has been an ongoing concern for many healthcare professionals.

“I also think that the current situation contributes to nurses leaving bedside nursing,” she said.

Violence on the rise

According to a 2022 report, by the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives, violence against nurses in B.C. has increased by 61 per cent over the last five years. 

A report released by the B.C. Nurses’ Union said nurses are now more likely to make a violent injury claim than law enforcement and security workers. 

Takata said patients can get upset when a nurse doesn’t have enough time to provide one on one care. 

“Today I had a client who expressed distress to me after an interaction because they felt like the person was rushing that they were dealing with, which is really common unfortunately,” she said. 

Safety training

Langara nursing students receive specific training to deal with violent patients.

“The dynamics and being aware when clients are getting agitated and upset and thinking about, like, do I have a safe exit to the room? Is there anything they could throw at me? Is there anything around my neck that they could grab?” said Takata.

Ben Aubrey, a nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital, said he moved hospitals to work in post-anesthetic care because of the level of violence at his previous job.

“It’s a lower patient ratio. And oftentimes, the risk of patient on nurse violence is much lower because they’re often sedated and optionally intubated,” he said.  

St. Paul’s Hospital frequently has patients from the Downtown Eastside. Aubrey said nurses treat these patients with raised levels of caution.

“I think whenever you’re coming into someone’s intimate space, especially someone who’s often primed by their socio-political context to be defensive, it raises your level of caution when you’re going into those interactions,” said Aubrey

Samantha Campbell, a long-term care nurse from Kamloops, said some nurses have to learn to live with the violent patients.

“Those aggressive people never just magically appeared. They were always there,” said Campbell. “I think COVID has definitely shined a light on our healthcare system as a whole.”

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