The Navy Yard; the Boston marathon; an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; Virginia Tech University; a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, and the beat goes on.
Violent acts are also often directed toward health care professionals. Every day, in our trauma centers and emergency departments, nurses are attacked—either verbally or physically. More assaults occur in health care and social industries than in any other industry. Out of 50 States, 36 do not have criminal laws protecting health care professionals. Workplace violence is a prevalent issue that needs to be addressed.
Our society cannot continue to tolerate this type of behavior. But what do we do? How do we address these issues? I do not pretend to have the answer, but I do know that we cannot place our heads in the sand and pretend that these issues are not impacting our everyday lives, our everyday profession. We need action—both individual and collective.
Staying silent is not the answer. Legislative sessions are about to begin and policy makers need to understand these issues. As influential leaders in our profession, we must take the opportunity to meet with our legislators, discuss these issues, and demand change. We must not continue to permit violence to exist in our environment.
We can also influence our administrators and community leaders. There is evidence that violence intervention and prevention programs are effective. Take a peek at the cities of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. They have invested in programs that are making a difference in the local communities. Although funding continues to lag in this arena, we must not shy away from tenaciously working toward implementation of these antiviolence programs.
Given our expertise with mental health, we need to advocate vehemently for access to mental health services. Although many may expect us to position ourselves around gun control, my plea is for us to instead lead conversations regarding treatment for the mentally ill and the limited resources for these individuals. Only when we get to the heart of these matters, will we begin to make a dent in violent acts toward others.
I urge us to follow our colleagues at the American Nurses Association and the Emergency Nurses Association who, as nursing organizations, have partnered with the White House and congressional, state, and city leaders for funding of violence intervention/prevention programs and have worked with legislators to enact legislation protecting health care professionals.
What is my request? Collectively, as influential nursing professionals, let us be visible, let us be vocal, and let us be leaders. Join me and the Society of Trauma Nurses in making a difference by creating position statements, partnering with our professional colleagues, and influencing our legislative partners. Please contact Stephanie Czuhajewski at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how you can get involved today, so that we can ensure a safer tomorrow.