Extend PTSD Presumption to All Caregivers
Recently, the Ontario government announced that it was extending the presumption of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a work-related condition to first-responder nurses. It’s a necessary step forward in recognizing the mental health needs of caregivers, but it does not go far enough.
Currently, the presumption of PTSD as a work-related condition only applies to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, prison guards, and now first-responder nurses. The government has missed an opportunity to address the mental health needs of all caregivers by not extending it to workers in Ontario’s long term care homes and other first responders who work in hospitals.
As you’re well aware, in long term care, many thousands of caregivers—RNs, RPNs, PSWs, healthcare aides—have experienced major traumatic events at the hands of those they care for. These are real incidents, and they’re not isolated. They happen every day in long term care homes across the province. In hospitals, security personnel, clinicians, and others respond to violent incidents and deal with violence on a daily basis.
All of these workers experience trauma not only from violence, but from other emotionally distressing experiences that can easily accumulate as psychological harm.
Workplace violence accounts for 9.4 percent of lost-time injuries for caregivers in long term care homes. Some have been seriously injured and suffered long term physical and mental trauma at the hands of residents and patients. For some, a single incident may mean months off of work to heal physically and emotionally. For others, the daily violence accumulates over time and eventually grinds one down.
Facing the daily threat of violence at work is not something any worker should have to contend with, yet for many of you, it’s become a grim reality. Your mental health needs cannot be ignored. Many of you have suffered from PTSD as a result of serious incidents that happened during the course of your work caring for others.
Extending the presumption of PTSD as a work-related condition to all caregivers, not only to first responders, would be a major step in the right direction in recognizing the mental health needs of all caregivers. It’s the least we should be doing to help care for those of you who care so well for others.