Punches, broken bones and more: 1 in 4 nurses are attacked on the job, study says

Punches, broken bones and more: 1 in 4 nurses are attacked on the job, study says

ATLANTA – When you go to the hospital, you’re probably not thinking that it is one of the most dangerous places to work. A recent study found one in four nurses has been assaulted on the job.

Channel 2 Action News requested surveillance video that shows a patient using a pipe from his hospital bed to attack nurses. The attack took place at St. John’s Hospital in Minnesota in 2014. Police handcuffed the man and he later died.

Violent outbursts are taking place inside metro Atlanta hospitals, too. Channel 2 Action News reported on the arrest of 57-year-old Sheila Jahn.

Police arrested her on half a dozen charges for allegedly assaulting nurses, staff and officers at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta in August 2018.

Local nurses told us it happens too often.

“A patient punched me in the chest, and I got two broken ribs,” emergency room nurse Terri Sullivan said.

“He started punching and flailing, and he punched one of the guys and broke his nose, punched me in the chest, knocked me on the floor,” said Joy Edwards, a nurse who has a Ph.D. in naturopathic medicine.

“She pushed me so, I flew out of the room, literally. She was a very big woman, pushed me and I flew out of the room and I almost fell,” said Victoria Randle, a family nurse practitioner.

Sullivan, Edwards and Randle have all been physically and verbally attacked on the job in metro Atlanta.

“Well, I’ve been spit on. I’ve been called out by name. I’ve been called racial slurs. My hair has been pulled. I’ve been scratched. I’ve been bitten twice,” Edwards said.

One in four nurses currently working has been assaulted at work according to a recent study by the American Nurses Association. Federal reports show at least 58 hospital workers died from workplace violence between 2011 and 2016.

Two of the factors cited are a lack of mental health services and the opioid epidemic.

“I realize that there are so many more patients with psychological issues nowadays. So many more people with the opioid crisis. You’re dealing with a lot of people who have addiction problems and it has increased,” Edwards said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr even found a sign reminding patients and visitors not to physically or verbally abuse staff at one local hospital.

The problem is on Connecticut U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney’s radar.

“Seventy percent of workplace assaults and acts of violence across the entire U.S. economy occur in health care and social services settings,” Courtney said.

He said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not currently track reports of health care workplace violence.

“If you slip and fall at a hospital as an employee, that’s reported to OSHA. But if somebody comes in and punches you out or threatens you with a weapon… that’s not reported to OSHA,” Courtney said. In February 2019, he introduced legislation that would make reporting mandatory and require health care facilities to have a plan to prevent violence.

Sullivan is also fighting for legislation. She helped push for a law that increases the punishment to five to 20 years for assaulting an emergency health care worker in Georgia.

“Being assaulted is not part of the job, plain and simple. It’s never OK to hit a nurse,” Sullivan said.

Courtney hopes the House bill is passed by the end of the year. There is identical legislation in the Senate.


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