The problem of assaults on medical workers may be at an all-time high — and the nurses in Minneapolis metro area have had enough.

The Minnesota Nurses Association is negotiating new contract terms with several metro hospitals. One key provision that the nurses want to see is better protection against workplace violence and assaults.

The issue was brought into sharp focus by an assault that took place at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center just this past week. A psychiatric nurse was beaten unconscious after a patient was denied Tylenol. Many nurses say that injuries are common, including black eyes, sprained wrists and broken bones. Others have suffered concussions, eye injuries, broken ribs and assaults with objects, like a metal bar. Nurses can be left with both physical injuries and psychological trauma from patient assaults.

Sometimes, those assaults come from angry patients — or their family members — when they feel that they aren’t receiving the right treatment. Other assaults come from patients who are simply hallucinating due to mental or physical causes. Some happen because patients are on drugs — or seeking them.

It’s a complicated issue for a lot of hospitals. Patients who are not lucid cannot be blamed for their behavior — but nurses should still have protection while they’re on the job. They also deserve compensation and care for on-the-job injuries without having to struggle with an administration that often treats patient assaults on nurses as “just part of the job.”

Most people in the industry agree that medical worker safety is a growing concern and problems can be minimized by things like panic buttons, security cameras, extra staff on duty and rooms that don’t leave nurses in “blind spots” where they can be victimized. There also needs to be a more proactive response from hospital and clinic administrators when an incident does happen to see that an injured nurse gets the support that he or she needs.