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NURSES: We need government’s help

Union says it has seen ‘minimal commitment’ on workplace violence legislation

ADAM BOWIE THE DAILY GLEANER

Paula Doucet PHOTO: ADAM BOWIE/THE DAILY GLEANER

Officials with the New Brunswick Nurses Union blasted the provincial government on Tuesday for its “minimal commitment” to beefing up workplace anti-violence legislation.

“[The union] has been lobbying government to do their part and enact workplace violence legislation since our annual meeting in October. To date, we have seen minimal commitment from [Post-Secondary Education,Training and Labour Minister Donald] Arseneault and Premier [Brian] Gallant,” Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, said in a news release.

“It is past time for them to do the right thing and ensure that all workers in this province are protected and supported against this serious risk.”

A recent survey by MQO Research found that 54 per cent of New Brunswick’s registered nurses experienced some form of workplace violence in 2016.

Doucet said New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that doesn’t consider workplace violence a hazard as part of its occupational health and safety legislation.

A spokeswoman at the training and labour department said Tuesday that the matter is still under review.

During an interview in February, Arseneault said his department had looked at legislation used elsewhere and staff was developing a policy paper for the government’s consideration.

“While New Brunswick does not have specific workplace violence legislation, in all jurisdictions across the country, including New Brunswick, human rights legislation prohibits discrimination-based violence and harassment in the workplace, and places a duty to prevent and manage it on the employer,”he said in an emailed statement at the time.

The NBNU said about 140 registered nurses will gather in Fredericton this week for the union’s executive council meeting and the campaign for legislative changes will be discussed.

On Tuesday, participants listened to presentations on workplace violence, compassion fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how those subjects can be interrelated.

Sandi Mowat, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said her organization recently completed a study on PTSD in nursing.

It’s difficult to get accurate numbers, she said, because many nurses choose not to report it.

“It’s also often misdiagnosed,”she said.

In 2016, nurses submitted 347 cases of psychological injuries to the worker’s compensation board in Manitoba.

“They may not all have been PTSD, but certainly mental health issues in the workplace. That was the most reported worker injury in the field,”she said.

And there’s a documented link, she said,between the slaps,the punches,the choking, the pinching, the spitting that nurses face in the line of duty each day.

“One of the main causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in nurses was violence in the workplace,”she said.

“It’s very important that there’s a proper recognition of violence in the workplace and that there are processes in place to protect nurses.”

Dr. Timothy Christie, director of ethics services for the Horizon Health Network and a presenter at the union’s meetings, said he reviewed about 300 studies on workplace violence involving health-care professionals from 55 different countries across the globe to prepare.

He said even though the problem exists throughout the world,a silver-bullet solution has yet to be found.

Given that fact, he said, it’ll be important that all the stakeholders work together to explore solutions.

He said that if you’re a front-line health professional, you have to protect yourself – both by trying to manage and de-escalate difficult situations before something happens,and by taking steps to protect yourself, your colleagues and your patients when incidents flare up.

The provincial government, and the regional health authorities, should always remember that both the environment and the delivery system surrounding health services contribute to the frustration of the patients health professionals serve, he said.

“Long wait lists. A sick population. Complex co-morbidities. Patients have difficulties accessing services they actually need. They might have to go to the emergency department as opposed to somewhere else. Now, in addition to being sick and going to the emergency department, which that person probably didn’t want to do, they now may face a very long wait,”he said.

“There’s a huge tension embedded in that first encounter. These are things the health authorities in the province can address. It’s not something that front-line people can address on their own.”

Until systemic changes happen, and the level of service is significantly altered, he believes there’ll continue to be frustration in the system that puts professionals at risk.

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