The culture of abuse has been largely overlooked
Care home workers are ‘bloodied and broken’ from the violence they are made to endure on the job, according to two new reports on the health care sector.
Personal support workers (PSWs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) are exposed to “extremely high” levels of verbal, sexual, and physical violence.
But the culture of abuse at care facilities has been largely overlooked, said Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, who led the study on violence against care staff.
“Long-term care homes in Ontario are largely staffed by women. Their work is based on compassion and care,” yet they are “expected to tolerate” this toxic environment, Dr. Keith said. Workers who dare speak publicly about abuse face the implicit threat of being disciplined or fired.
Apart from violence, other issues that weigh down frontline caregivers include:
- Lack of uniform protections and regulations
- Understaffing and underfunding
- Stress and burnout
Abuse has become normalised at care facilities despite the notion that the health and wellbeing of care workers also signal the health of the caregiving industry as a whole, Dr. Brophy explained.
The findings of their study, he said, should prompt a critical examination of why and how such high levels of violence persist.
A related study, commissioned by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, found:
- 88% of PSWs and RPNs suffer physical violence at work
- 69% of racialized, indigenous and minority staff endure related harassment
- 69% of care staff want to leave their job
“These results paint a grim picture of a scandalously unsafe environment – we should not believe that this culture cannot be changed,” said Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer and former PSW. “Violence should never be seen as part of the job.”