Making Peace with God
Let’s talk about violence, assaults and homicide.
When we think of violence, violent attacks, or homicide, most people imagine street crime, a convenience store robbery gone very badly, or perhaps a lethal home invasion.
My topic is different: violence perpetrated against healthcare workers-nurses, physicians, emergency techs, medical assistants, x-ray techs and so forth-at the hands of patients, patient’s family members and patient acquaintances.
A Population Under Attack
The healthcare employee population is, literally and figuratively, under attack and victims are losing their sense of freedom, safety, emotional stability, and in some cases their lives.
Nurses have been violently attacked by patients that they were taken care of. Beaten, stabbed, knocked out and a nurse was shot another nurse was raped.
Violent attacks on healthcare workers has become an out of control pandemic.
“Have a Good Day, See You Later”
I have been a nurse for over 40 years. As healthcare workers, we never know if we are going to get home without being injured-or if we are to return home at all.
When we kiss a spouse or hug a child goodbye before heading off to work, each wishing the other a good day, too many of us return home a completely different person, or never return home at all.
“Just suck it up “
Despite the widespread and out of control occurrences of violence -perpetrated too
often, too frequently. And against too many of us-and despite the pervasive acceptance by victim and administrator alike that its “just part of the job” it’s a fact that being assaulted is not in any healthcare job description.
This bears repeating: being assaulted is not in any healthcare job description
Yet both victims and administrators are sweeping it under the rug.
ONE VICTIMS TALE: MEET JANE
Nurses everywhere need to read this account, even if you don’t believe it applies to you. Unfortunately, many healthcare workers will identify with this victim’s experience.
I was sitting down charting/ documenting on my patient. Out of the corner of my eye I see a patient unsteady on her feet, coming right at me. I get up and try to steady her, and she falls into my chair. The patient grabs the back of my neck, pulls me down on her lap wrenching and twisting my neck and head. My back is slammed against the arm of the chair. She keeps wrenching and twisting my neck and head, I felt like I was losing (consciousness) My strength is ebbing, I am becoming weak and I am praying to God… I am making peace with my God. I thought I was going to die.
My colleagues are all over me, trying to help. One of the nurses is grabbing the patient’s hand as the patient strains to bite my hand; the other nurse has the patient’s other hand behind her back. The patient persisted in her attack until she heard the voice of the security guard to stop. It wasn’t until then that she put her hands in the air, and I was free. FREE!
Like an Onion
Jane’s physical assault is only part of her experience.
An assault is like the layers of an onion. First there is the actual event; then there is the physical, emotional and financial aftermath; and finally, there is the social, familial and employer response.
The emotional trauma following an assault is different for everyone, but for Jane she is forced to revisit the attack and the accompany terror she experiences pain or numbness. Today, Jane continues to battle with anxiety, severe stress, and inability to sleep as a result of her experience.
Jane has become hyper-vigilant of her surroundings and has suffered a loss of confidence in her abilities to respond without pause or hesitancy to emergency situations- a trait critical to her career as a healthcare worker.
As a result of theses physical and emotional repercussions, Jane has not been able to return to the same unit that previously employed her.
And. finally, there is perhaps the most disturbing aftermath to a violent event:
The victim’s coworkers, and sometimes family, just wants her to “get over it” get on with life and move on. “you’re alive, aren’t you? When are you going back to work? When will you stop moping around? What is the big deal? Stop being a Drama Queen!
Countless individuals have been in this situation, healthcare workers are hurt, disabled and scared to continue the only job they want to do.
After being assaulted they are unable to continue. Someone took away their health, paycheck and career!
We need to have a call to action! We need to continue writing incident reports, call the police, become change agents Change the culture of your environment, stop enabling these people that assault us, don’t accept that being assaulted is part of your job! talk about the violence, support each other. Watch each other’s back.
Sheila Wilson MPH BSN R.N.
Author: “The shocking reality of violence in healthcare and what we can do about it”