The NY Times published an article about violence against healthcare workers. It was heart-wrenching to read:
Last year one of my patients was on the phone, lamenting about how long he had been in the emergency room. He had already waited several hours to get a CT scan. Medications he was supposed to be given were repeatedly delayed. I heard his voice rise and fall, with each swell more expansive than the one before. When I turned to look at him, he yelled a racial epithet before hurling a desktop computer into the area where doctors and nurses sit. A seasoned nurse ducked. As I pushed an intern and medical student out of the way, he charged at us with a steel tray. Thankfully, no one was injured.
According to the article, a 2022 survey of Emergency Medicine Physicians found that “55 percent said they had been physically assaulted, almost all by patients, with a third of those resulting in injuries. Eighty-five percent had been seriously threatened by patients.” For ER nurses, it is worse: 70% reported physical assaults at work.
This is unconscionable.
The article was written by Emergency Medicine physician and Columbia University professor Dr. Helen Ouyang. She wrote this:
In the E.R., there’s a certain level of resignation that violence is just part of the job, like getting bloodstains on our shoes. We have come to endure racist, sexist and homophobic slurs, choosing silence over confrontation, to fulfill our duty to care for human life. After all, we pledge to hold our patients’ well-being above all else.
Violence should never, ever, ever, ever, ever be “just part of the job.” This is unacceptable. Those of us who have answered the call of healthcare – whether physician, or nurse, or respiratory therapist, or physical therapist, or patient care technician – have sacrificed a great deal to be here. We have given so much of our time, our blood, our sweat, and our tears to care for those who are ill.
No part of this job should include violence directed toward the healthcare team. None.
I understand that sometimes, if not many times, patients are not in their right minds. They may be sick with infection, or organ failure, or substance abuse. That does not excuse violence against us. I always say that patient safety is “number one a.” Staff safety is “one b”: it is co-equal with patient safety.
We can’t easily fix the societal maladies that lead to violence against healthcare workers. At the same time, every healthcare institution must ensure that their staff is safe at work. It is an absolute necessity.
Please make sure you read the article and watch the opinion video accompanying it. It is heart-wrenching.
And I say again: violence should never, ever, ever, ever be “just part of the job.” It is absolutely unacceptable.