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Workplace Violence

Violence is not part of the job.

Everyone has the right to a safe and respectful workplace free from violence. Unfortunately, physical and verbal abuse targeted at workers are regular occurrences in health care settings. It’s a dangerous pressure cooker on the front lines of our health care system, and it’s only getting worse.

In a national study conducted by the CFNU, we found that 61% of nurses reported a serious problem with violence over a recent 12 month period and two-thirds considered leaving their jobs as a result. The number of violence-related lost-time claims for health care workers increased by almost 66% over a nine year period – three times the rate of increase for police and correctional service officers combined.

In addition to physical injury, workplace violence has a serious impact on workers’ mental health, as revealed by a 2020 CFNU study that found disturbing rates of mental disorder symptoms among nurses. Physical assault was the traumatic event reported, affecting 92.7% of nurses. Nearly half of nurses (46.4%) reported exposure to physical assault 11 or more times.

After concerted federal lobbying by the CFNU on this issue, in 2019 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health conducted its first-ever study into violence against health care workers. The committee’s final report makes a number of recommendations championed by the CFNU, including:

  • Creating a pan-Canadian violence-prevention framework;
  • Holding perpetrators of assault accountable;
  • Better data and tracking;
  • Targeted funding for violence-prevention infrastructure;
  • Updating Canada’s health human resources strategy to address major staffing shortages across the country.

It’s time for our federal politicians to take action to implement these recommendations and make our health care settings safe for workers and patients.

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