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Emergency room nurses are at the epicenter of violence

People don’t go to nursing school with the expectation that they’ll be the victims of gang violence, threats and other crime every day at work. However, for many nurses working in inner city hospitals, that’s their reality.

One nurse in a Chicago hospital said, “Every night nurses are verbally abused, physically threatened, spit on . . . They say, ‘I’ll get you after work.’ A paramedic say that family members who are angry because their child was killed sometimes threaten health care professionals.

Emergency room nurses often take the brunt of the attacks. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) says that the vast majority of ER nurses have experienced physical and/or verbal abuse. Sometimes it’s “just” spitting; others have been seriously injured. The organization is seeking federal legislation that would require specific security protocols and mandate that hospitals report incidents of violence.

It all takes an emotional toll as well. ER nurses see a lot of what they call “frequent fliers” — people who end up there again and again. Even after being shot, they often fight the hospital personnel who are trying to get them to hand over the phones on which they’re still texting. One ER nurse says that “there’s a lot of disgust, sadness, that we’re looking at lives being lost.” Things only get worse in the summer when the temperatures rise.

While there’s a lot of media focus on Chicago’s gun violence, nurses here in Pennsylvania and around the country face the same threats and assaults. A report last fall said that in some states, nurses face greater workplace risks than police officers or even prison guards.

Sometimes the violence comes from unexpected sources. Last year, a video went viral of a nurse in a Utah hospital being handcuffed and roughly hauled away by police officers when she refused their demand to draw blood without a warrant from an unconscious patient.

When nurses are injured at work, whether it’s due to violence, the strenuous physical work they’re often required to do or any number of other reasons, they may require long-term and expensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. They may not be able to work in the profession to which they’ve committed their lives for some time. It’s essential that they seek the compensation they need and deserve so that they can heal and move forward.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Column: ER workers on Chicago gang violence: ‘We’re in a war zone too’,” John Kass, May 08, 2018

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