Friday, September 17, 2010

Occupational Hazard

In light of the recent shooting at Johns Hopkins, ran a front page story about violence in hospitals, especially the ER. Citing a study from 2009, the article highlights that more than half of ER nurses had been spit on, scratched, pushed, or verbally assaulted on job.

A nurse quoted in the piece describes how her jaw was broken in an altercation with a patient who later explained that he "was tired of waiting."

One of the draws of emergency medicine, for me at least, is the ability and mission to treat anything that comes through the doors. Given the patient population, nobody who chooses to work in the emergency department should be surprised when the occasional punch is thrown - we often see people at their very worst, and it's part of the job.

But when violence inches towards the rule rather than the exception, that's a problem. As another ER nurse observed:

"You would never go into the supermarket and say, 'the tomatoes aren't good enough' and punch the clerk and get away with it. That's exactly what happens in emergency departments all over the U.S."

1 comment:

Jo said...

Violence from the normal population isn't acceptable. Period.

I don't include patients with dementia, head trauma or severe mental health issues, as they often don't know what they are doing. But there should be measures in place to mitigate those risks - you shouldn't have to suffer injury when you are trying to help someone.

But from your ordinary, run of the mill ER patient, violence is not acceptable. Whether the patient just happens to be an aggressive person, or has been drinking / doing drugs, and therefore can claim not to be in control of their faculties, it is still *not* an excuse.

I just wish there was more appetite for prosecuting patients (or their families!) who attack those who are trying to help them (both before and after they get to hospital - we've recently had a case here in NZ of a patient biting a paramedic :-( ). CCTV in hospitals would mean that conviction would be almost assured, and if people knew that a custodial sentence would result, then it may help reduce the problem!