BCNU welcomes federal NDP support for reduction of workplace violence faced by nurses


Nurses harmed by violence and trauma, such as PTSD, need better WCB protections in BC


THE BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) on Monday welcomed the announcement that NDP MP Don Davies introduced Bill C-434 that amends Canada’s Criminal Code specifically with respect to health care workers who are assaulted. The Bill proposes to amend the criminal code to require a court to consider the fact that a victim of an assault in the health care sector as an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.

Nurses met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on January 9 in Kamloops and have also asked for his support to change this federal legislation.

Since BCNU launched their “Violence. Not Part of the Job” campaign in 2017, nurses have been asking the federal government to add nursing to the list of professions in Canada’s Criminal Code so that assaults against them are considered during sentencing. Transit operators and peace officers have this protection. BCNU wants the following sections of the Criminal Code amended to include nurses:

– S.269.01 Aggravating Circumstances – assault against a public transit operator or a nurse
– S.269.01 (1) “… the victim of the offence was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a public transit operator or a nurse engaged in the performance of his or her duty.”

The principles in BCNU’s violence prevention campaign have gained multiparty support in BC’s Legislature. BC Health Minister Adrian Dix (NDP) and BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson have written to the federal minister to support such changes to the Criminal Code. BC Green Leader Dr. Andrew Weaver has broadly supported violence reduction in health care.

“Last October we delivered 25,000 signed post cards to Health Minister Dix from citizens who want violence in health care eliminated,” said BCNU President Christine Sorensen. “We’re pleased that the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union (CFNU) is also supporting the federal legislative component of our violence-reduction campaign.”

The second key legislative component of BCNU’s violence-reduction campaign is provincial. It is asking the provincial government to add nurses to the list of professions in the Workers Compensation Act that have the presumption of mental injury when they are impacted by violence or other workplace traumas, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Weaver has also stated his support for this change and has called on the provincial government to sign the required Order-In-Council and give this protection to nurses.

Once you hear a nurse say, “I’ve gone from providing patient care to being a mental health patient because of my work, you never forget that. BCNU supports nurses with denied WorkSafeBC (WSBC) claims who have documented workplace mental injuries,” said Sorensen. “Nursing is a mentally demanding profession because we’re constantly exposed to human suffering, trauma and sometimes violence. Over time this can cause injuries such as PTSD.”

There is a worldwide nursing shortage and BC is beginning to experience its impact. Patients need nurses working in health care facilities instead of recovering at home from the impact of violence or workplace traumas. WSBC data from 2016 shows that nurses accounted for nearly 12% of all mental injury claims and over 10% of all claims were registered for PTSD. In that same year, 76 nurses (more than six per month) registered PTSD claims.

“It’s time for the BC government to act and give nurses the help they need,” said Sorensen.