Throughout my nursing career, I was programmed to believe that getting swat, hit, bit and strangled with my stethoscope was a part of the job. Most healthcare professionals have a story or several about a patient or family member who has physically assaulted them. Sometimes an attack will result in a minor scratch or bruise. But often an assault against a healthcare worker causes serious injury; resulting in loss of income, PTSD, disability and even death.
We care for all kinds of people who have the potential to assault us, some who are agitated from their illness or medications and others who are violent by nature. Healthcare workers have been disabled from attacks and left without any resources to help them with their injuries, the financial strain from loss of work or their PTSD caused by an attack. Yet, up until now we have remained silent and accepted this as part of our job.
I have gone home with scratches and bruises from patients who have grabbed onto me or dug their fingernails into my arm. I have also had a patient outright attack me. He was on an alcohol withdrawal protocol, he had a leg cast and a Foley catheter inserted. I entered his room to assess his condition and before I realized what was happening he had ripped his foley out and jumped out of bed, he lunged at me in a rage, grabbed my stethoscope which was draped around my neck. Then began to strangle me with it! Luckily, another nurse was outside the door and I received immediate help. I was not injured, just shaken. What did I do? I went on to the next patient and continued doing my job.
Another incident that I experienced was with a patient that requested their pain medication about an hour before it was due. I explained that the medication was not due yet and that I would bring it in as soon as it was time. The patient began swearing and accusing me of withholding her pain medication. I left her room. She followed me and continued to follow me around the unit, I felt very threatened. In this case, I talked to another nurse and she took over the care of this patient for me.“Did you know that healthcare is the industry with the highest rate of non-lethal workplace assault?” #silentnomore #WorkplaceViolence #healthcare #SMYS Click To Tweet
Another experience occurred while I was working on a 28-bed rehab unit which was part of a long-term care facility. It was the second shift and staffing was short. We had two nurses, one CNA, an APRN, the supervisor and me. I was the admission nurse. The supervisor was floating throughout the facility. I was behind the nurse’s station. One of our patients, a tall muscular man with dementia was on the unit. He was known to become agitated. On this particular evening, his agitation increased, he refused care from the staff and was walking up and down the hall threatening other patients. He punched one of the nurses and chased the APRN around the nurse’s station. No one could get near him. He reached for the stapler that was in front of me. I grabbed it and then removed anything that he could grab and use as a weapon. I called the supervisor but she refused to call 911. She also refused to call the medical director because the APRN was there. The APRN was not able to get the patient under control. The nurse that was punched did not report it. The situation was crazy, This happened a few years ago and I still feel shaken from it. I was so worried that he would seriously hurt a patient or a nurse, and I was afraid of him without having proper safety measures in place and management that advocates for staff and other residents.
The next day, I met with the Director of Nursing. I explained to her what happened and shared my concerns about the patient and how it was handled. I told her that he injured staff and could have really hurt another patient. I complained that the supervisor would not allow us to call 911 so that the patient could get transferred to an acute care setting and medicated. The D.O.N reply was: “well, the nurses must not have used appropriate nursing interventions to calm him down.” WHAT!? That patient did not need nursing intervention, no one could get near him – He needed an order for Haldol or to be sent out for medical management! She blamed the nurses, I don’t know why I am surprised because it is not all that unusual to place the blame on the nurse.
By the way, that was the last day that I worked in that facility. I resigned that day because I was not going to work somewhere that did not respect my safety or nursing judgment!
Until now, the issues surrounding violence against healthcare workers was shoved under the rug. It was accepted as part of the job. Many, like the nurse that I worked with, are afraid to report because they are worried about retaliation from their employers. Per the Silent No More Foundation’s brochure, “Many victims report being disciplined by employers after assaults, and being pressured by employers and law enforcement to not report.”
Angela Simpson, RN had enough and decided we will be “Silent No More” about violence against healthcare workers. She founded the Silent No More Foundation a 501(c)4 social change non-profit organization that works to help healthcare professionals before, during and after an assault in the workplace.
The foundation uses advocacy, awareness, education, and legislation to bring attention to the risk of violence that healthcare workers are subjected to. They work with legislators to create laws that will make an assault against a healthcare worker a felony.
Silent No More Foundation also offers support to healthcare workers who have experienced an assault while in the workplace.
Please visit their website to find out more about the very important work that they are doing.
How can you get involved?
Connect with Silent No More Foundation and tell your story. Help us spread the word, tell your friends and co-workers. Work with your managers to develop zero tolerance policies.
Share with your co-workers and get involved.
The Silent No More Foundation recommends that you do not wear your stethoscope around your neck. An agitated patient or family member can quickly grab your stethoscope and use it as a strangulation device when it is worn around your neck. Use coupon code: silentnomore to get 20% off when you purchase a Koala~Qlip Stethoscope Holder.