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Mission Nurses Call for Management to Address Workplace Violence

— June 28, 2024

After facing repeated threats, staff call for stronger safety measures to be put into place.

Nurses at HCA Healthcare-owned Mission Hospital in Asheville have reported they face relentless workplace violence, prompting them to demand stronger management action to prevent physical injuries and emotional trauma. In 2023 alone, staff called Asheville police 25 times and filed complaints with the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) about employer inaction.

In response to the escalating violence, more than 20 union nurses from Mission Hospital spoke out during a recent contract bargaining session, sharing their experiences and urging for stronger measures to protect staff. The union, representing over 1,600 nurses, is advocating for clearer policies on workplace violence, medical benefits for injured nurses, and consistently functioning duress badges.

They detailed their reports of being choked, hit, kicked, and thrown against walls. Misty Jackson, an emergency department nurse, shared a harrowing account of an assault where she was repeatedly hit in the head while waiting for security to arrive. “I’ve got hit in the head multiple times waiting for them to get there,” Jackson said, recounting the incident that left her with a headache for three days.

Elle Kruta, a nurse and union representative, emphasized, “It’s not just physical violence, it’s emotional trauma,” underscoring the profound impact of these incidents on the mental health of those on the frontlines.

Mission Nurses Call for Management to Address Workplace Violence
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Workplace violence is a widespread issue in healthcare, particularly in emergency departments and mental health facilities, and unfortunately, it’s uncommon for workers to experience assault from patients and visitors while on the job, particularly in high-stress environments and amid understaffing. Nurses and other healthcare professionals frequently face verbal, physical, and even sexual abuse, which can result in serious physical injuries and long-lasting emotional trauma. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, up to 38 percent of nurses experience some form of violent abuse during their careers.

Nancy Lindell, a spokesperson for Mission Health, responded that the hospital tracks all incidents of violence against its staff – including both verbal and physical aggression – and encourages them to do the same. However, specific data on the number of assaults over the past decade was not disclosed.

Despite these efforts, Mission Hospital’s response has been deemed insufficient by many. The hospital used to have its own security staff but now contracts with Allied Universal, a company that has faced criticism for not adequately addressing the security needs of the hospital. Allied Universal did not respond to questions about its staffing and security measures at Mission.

The issue of workplace violence extends beyond Mission Hospital. A 2023 survey by National Nurses United revealed that 81.6 percent of nurses across the U.S. experienced some form of violence while on the clock. The survey also noted a significant increase in violence since the COVID-19 pandemic, with 26 percent of nurses reporting a substantial rise in violent incidents. According to a 2023 report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence across all industries also increased by 20% post-COVID.

The high turnover rate of nurses at Mission Hospital, specifically, with over 600 leaving since 2022, underscores the detrimental impact of violence on staff retention and morale.

Ashley Sholar, an emergency department director and board member of the North Carolina Nurses Association, summed up the sentiments of all health workers who fear for their safety, stating, “People don’t want to work in an environment where they’re scared. They want to work in an environment where they feel safe to be able to come to work and they don’t feel like they’re walking on eggshells.”

For this to be brought to fruition, focusing on enhanced security measures, adequate staffing, and comprehensive support systems are essential. As the healthcare industry continues to navigate these challenges, the voices of nurses and other frontline medical personnel must also be at the forefront of efforts as they can offer firsthand insight into which safest measures are going to be most effective.


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Workplace Violence – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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