Nurses welcome recommendations to deal with workplace violence but say issue of physician dominance must be addressed
TORONTO, Dec. 11, 2007 – The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is welcoming the 26 recommendations released today by the jury examining the murder of RN Lori Dupont. But the association cautions that until systemic hierarchies embedded in our health-care system are addressed, physicians will continue to wield a disproportionate amount of power over other health-care professionals.
The jury’s recommendations suggest changes that must be made by numerous bodies, including the Ontario government, hospitals, the Ontario Medical Association and at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor where Dupont and Dr. Marc Daniel worked. On Nov. 12, 2005, Daniel, an anaesthesiologist, stabbed Dupont, who had previously ended a romantic relationship with him. Daniel then committed suicide.
“We are pleased to see the jury recognized that staff and patient safety must come before a physician’s right to practice,” says RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun. But, Grinspun says that to prevent systemic abuse – which can range from belittling and bullying colleagues to the tragic murder of a health-care professional – the underlying power structures that exist in hospitals must be addressed. “We are calling on the government to open the Public Hospitals’ Act and replace hospitals’ Medical Advisory Committees, which are governed by physicians, with inter-professional committees that represent all health-care professionals,” she says.
Grinspun says RNAO will work with all partners, including the Ontario Medical Association, to prevent future tragedies. She says that’s necessary given evidence presented at the inquest, where jurors heard about Daniel’s, aggressive behaviour exhibited toward other staff at Hotel-Dieu, and staff members’ uncertainty about how to respond to these incidents.
RNAO president Mary Ferguson-Pare says the tragedy points to the larger need for all health-care organizations to implement zero-tolerance policies on violence in the workplace. According to the International Council of Nurses, nurses are three times more likely to experience violence than any other group.
“We must ensure that what happened to Lori Dupont does not happen again,” says Ferguson-Pare. “The jury’s recommendations outlining a process employees and supervisors should follow to deal with violence in the workplace is a step in the right direction to prevent, identify and deal with instances of violence and abuse in the workplace.”
Ferguson-Pare says RNAO’s policy statement on violence against nurses in the workplace lays the groundwork to prevent these tragedies by addressing the social, workplace and individual factors that contribute to violence and abuse, including that which comes from physicians.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.