Workplace Violence in the Health Sector


Violence, which is a major source of inequality, discrimination, stigmatisation and conflict in the workplace is increasingly being recognized as a central human rights issue. The enormous cost of workplace violence for the individual, the employer and other employees, and the community at large is becoming more and more apparent.  Health personnel are particularly exposed to violence. According to WHO, more than half of all workers in the health sector may have experienced violent incidents at some point. Ambulance and pre-hospital emergency staff are reported to be at the greatest risk. Since the large majority of the health workforce is female, the gender dimension of the problem must be recognized.

The first international response to workplace violence in the health sector came in 2000 from the International Labour Office (ILO), the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Services International (PSI) when they launched a Joint Program on Workplace Violence in the Health Sector to raise awareness of workplace violence and development strategies to create safe work environments. Since then, the Framework Guidelines for addressing workplace violence in the health sector  for addressing workplace violence in the health sector were published and a training manual has been released to assist practitioners in implementing these guidelines.

Two international conferences took place in October 2008 and 2010 in Amsterdam with the purpose to raise awareness of workplace violence in the health sector and clarify strategies to create work environments that are violence-free.

WMA  Action

In line with its commitment to improve working conditions for health professionals and develop Positive Practice Environment, the WMA acknowledges workplace violence as a major challenge within the healthcare sector and supports the initiative to create work environments that ensure the well being of physicians, other health professionals and patients.

In this perspective, the WMA was closely involved in the planning of the second Conference on Workplace Violence in the Health Sector, acting as a supporting organisation, together with other relevant health professional and International organisations. The conference "From Awareness to Sustainable Action" took place in Amsterdam on 27-29 October in Amsterdam: Download the book of proceedings.

The 3rd International Conference on Violence in the Health Sector, will take place in Vancouver, Canada, from October 24-26 2012. In addition to raising awareness, the 2012 conference will provide a platform to share international developments, with a particular emphasis on best practice research and initiatives to effectively respond to the problem. This time again, the WMA is partner in this initiative.

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