How to Address Workplace Violence in the Senior Care Industry

​​Do you feel safe at work? For some, you may answer yes, but for others, your answer is far from it. Many experience violence at their job, but what is workplace violence? Workplace violence "is any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted during the course of his or her employment, including the application of force, threats, verbal abuse, and sexual, racial or personal harassment” (CUPE, 2011).



Workplace violence


Long-term care homes


Workplace violence in long-term care is a significant concern. According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), in Ontario, staff working in long-term care facilities endure a high degree of harassment, violence, and abuse.

Roughly 90% “of long-term care staff in Ontario have experienced workplace violence” (Davis, 2019).

A study with roughly 56 front-line workers working in Ontario long-term care homes indicates that “all but three of them reported experiencing violence from residents” (Flanagan, 2019). What’s even more staggering is that many say they face violence day in and day out.


The CUPE Ontario and the OCHU (Ontario Council of Hospital Unions) conducted a poll with front line and long-term care workers and illustrates that 88% of personal support workers and registered practical nurses have experienced some form of physical violence (Davis, 2019). Furthermore, 69% “of nurses and personal support workers acknowledge wanting to leave their jobs” (Davis, 2019).


Home care


Home healthcare workers often face a work environment that is unpredictable and irregular each time they work in their patient’s home and communities. Home healthcare workers are at risk of psychological and physical harm because they often work alone, have very little support from their peers, and their work environment is not in their control. They may have to travel to dangerous neighbourhoods, and deal with family arguments.

A survey conducted by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) highlighted that “as many as 61% of home care nurses have experienced some form of workplace violence” (Lynch, 2017).

Workplace violence is one of the main concerns among home healthcare workers. According to CDC, “between 2.5% and 44% of home healthcare workers have reported being physically assaulted” (Small et al., 2021).


Effects of workplace violence


Workplace violence leads to turnover in the senior care industry, ultimately creating a staffing shortage. Workplace violence lowers the employee’s job satisfaction, increases turnover, and leads to burnout, stress, and anxiety among employees. It decreases the employee's motivation, productivity and increases absenteeism and mistakes. Workplace violence also leads to a decrease in the quality of care being provided. When a work environment is violent, it often means that patients and residents are in danger.


Work culture


A work culture shift is needed. For many working in long-term care, employees are afraid to speak up about violent attacks that had occurred, and though they are the victims, their work culture makes them believe that they will be the ones to be blamed.


The same goes for the home care industry, as many violent incidents do not get reported to employers. Only ⅕ of violent incidents get reported because of embarrassment, work culture, or retributions from supervisors/managers (Kirby, 2020).


Workplace violence prevention


Communication is key to helping prevent workplace violence. Employers need to provide an environment where staff aren’t afraid to speak up. Training can help lessen violence in the workplace. Training allows employees to recognize warning signs of violence and understand how to defuse situations that are violent. To create a safe work environment, the staff must know how to deal with their patient needs that are becoming complex. Companies can use feedback, like employee engagement surveys or a 360 development tool to identify their employee's strengths and weaknesses. Training your employees to help reduce safety risks can help retain current employees and recruit future employees. Having adequate staffing can also decrease workplace violence.


How we can help


Gaining feedback helps begin the process of creating a safe work environment. Not only does it help foster a safer environment, but workers feel that they are being heard and valued. To ensure that employees are safe and feel safe, one must listen to their needs, understand their risks, and take that information to create new policies.

Surveys are a great way to deploy these questions to their employees and to understand the hazards in their workplace. Pulse surveys are short, frequent surveys that can be tailored o specific topics to assess their change over time. Pulse surveys allow staff members to see the impact of their changes in real-time. The frequent nature of pulse surveys means the information management and staff member sees, will always be current.

Retainify offers a 360 development tool that can help businesses understand the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. With the help of our 360 development tool, companies can identify what training needs to take place and what to do to improve these gaps.

Retainify is an employee engagement software that offers a unified solution that allows you to track employee sentiment and measure engagement in real-time. Proactively identify issues that are preventing them from being their best at work. Improve business outcomes by improving the employee experience, and enhancing company culture one feedback at a time. Turn Feedback into Action.

Questions or Feedback?

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