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Emergency room workers go to work each day ready to help anyone who walks through their doors. But sometimes their jobs can pose a health risk. That’s the case at Mercy Hospital Lebanon where violence against ER workers has been in the rise over the last couple of years. Hospital President Michael Gillen says not only has the number of violent incidents increased, the violence itself has gotten worse…
"Typical things that we would see would be assaults. Assaults would include anything from hitting and punching, kicking and spitting at and things like that--more of that type of activity all the time," he said.
In 2012, nurses were kicked, hit in the face and spit on. One security officer suffered a bloody nose.
According to Gillen, they’re also seeing a lot more threats to do bodily harm, which creates a hostile work environment.
He says there are a few reasons for the violence—one is domestic violence…
"The patients are brought here for treatment and then sometimes the issues of the violence carry over with them and they bring that same type hostility towards each other and many times that hospital spills over to our staff as we're trying to take care of these people," he said.
He points to drug addiction as another reason for the violence against healthcare workers at his hospital.
According to Gillen, the down economy might be a factor in the increase in violent incidents as anxiety levels in families increase.
The hospital has taken steps to address the problem. One is to educate the community about what’s happening—to let people know if they’re violent towards healthcare workers they’ll be held accountable.
And they’re working with local law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office…
"And asking that they impose the more severe penalty using the state statutes versus the municipal courts in dealing with these people,and they've been very supportive of that--understanding that our emergency services staff and others are here to serve the community and the public and the public's interest and shouldn't have to take the type of violent threats and assaults that we're seeing," he said.
Hospital staff members who are victims of violence by patients or family members aren’t required to report it, but Gillen says they’re strongly encouraged to do so.
If an incident takes place, hospital security gets involved and local law enforcement is called in to help stabilize the situation.
According to Gillen, healthcare workers have long thought that dealing with combative patients was just part of their job, but he says that needs to stop…
"It's becoming unsafe for them. It's unsafe for the rest of the patients, and we've got to take steps to protect our staff and patients," he said.
Gillen says they want to avoid a situation where they have a shortage of staff in emergency services because employees are afraid to go to work.