BC Nurses’ Union brings health minister a strong message of public support for nurses

Adrian Dix: What’s he doing about violence against nurses?
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

A delegation of BC’s nurses arrived at the steps of the B.C. Legislature on Thursday where BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) President Christine Sorensen delivered the message that violence is not part of the job.

The lunch hour event saw the union deliver boxes containing over 24,000 signed Violence. Not part of the job. postcards to Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The BCNU launched its first anti-violence campaign in 1992. In those 25 years, violence in BC has reached shocking levels in the province, which has the second lowest number of registered nurses in Canada at 676 per 100,000 population. Violence risk is significantly related to organizational factors, such as heavy workloads and unsafe staffing levels.

“Bruises, black eyes, racial slurs, concussions, chipped teeth are patient injuries that nurses frequently see in hospital, community and residential care. However, the problem with this description is that nurses are increasingly also being treated for the latter injuries due to violence in their workplaces,” said Sorensen.

WorksafeBC statistics from over the last decade demonstrate that:

  • 40 percent of all injuries claimed by nurses were a direct result of violence in the workplace
  • The overall injury rate due to workplace violence has increased over 50 percent since 2006
  • More than 85 percent of workers injured from acts of violence are female
  • Roughly 26 nurses a month suffer from violent injuries at work

Sorenson said that while the statistics are alarming, “They are entirely preventable, and this is supported by evidence.” She added: “Yet nurses have not been included in the WorkSafeBC presumptive legislation by this government. This can delay access to support for many BCNU members who suffer from PTSD or other mental injuries due to trauma and violence experienced in the workplace.”

During the last provincial election all three party leaders and more than 50 MLAs signed a candidate pledge that, if elected, they would work to advocate for a violence-free workplace.

“Nurses care for all. What is needed now is for this government to exercise the political will to protect nurses, health care workers and their patients, by creating a culture of safety in the delivery of care for all British Columbians,” Sorensen noted.