Sunday, April 17, 2016

Work Shouldn't Hurt

I wrapped the blood pressure cuff nervously around his forearm because his upper arm was so massive that the cuff would not encircle it.
He didn't speak, but is eyes darted back and forth, seemingly studying everything and everybody in the room.
I was an emergency room patient care tech at the time and my job was to observe him and keep him safe while he waited for his psychiatric exam.
In cases like this, I often had the same unspoken question in my mind, "who would keep me safe?"

He was in his room and I observed him on a camera from near-bye. He had spoken to his nurse saying he felt unsafe and could hurt himself, she had told him he was safe and to rest on the stretcher, which he did.
His back was to the camera and though I could see he was fiddling with something, I could not see what.

Suddenly, he was off the stretcher, He had fashioned his sheet into a noose and attached it to the side of the stretcher, just out of my line of vision.
He wrapped it around his neck and lay on the floor, tightening it with his weight.

I yelled for help and rushed into the room, I struggled to remove the noose and was successful.
He jumped to his feet and wrapped those massive arms around my head, placing me in a headlock.

Security was quickly there, he was controlled, and I was safe, but to this day I do not know if it was security's quick response or because the patient did not want to harm me, that I have to thank for my life.
I am sure of one thing, had he wanted to, he could have snapped my neck.

My boss, who was a kind and good boss, sent me for a coffee, to have a break.
I am unsure if I went home for the day, or if I returned to work, it's a bit of a blur.
This was sometime prior to my becoming a nurse, which was in 1999, and I still can feel his forearms on my scull.

I was one of the lucky ones.
My only injury was psychological, but many in healthcare are injured or killed each year from the daily physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by patients and families.
"It's part of the job," we tell ourselves.
'It's embarrassing that we allowed ourselves to be victims,' we tell ourselves.

But it's not.

I want to thank Helene Andrews of Danbury Nurses Unit 47 and Donna Callicutt of the Backus Federation of Nurses, both AFT Connecticut Registered Nurses for speaking out this week in Washington on this issue.
I want to thank John Bryan of the Steelworkers, Eric Hesse of AFSME, and Brandy Welsh of National Nurses United.
I want to thank my Congressman, Joe Courtney, as well as Congressman Bobby Scott, Senator Patty Murray, and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, for pushing for a GAO report on actions needed to prevent such violence.

It can be prevented.
The study reports that facilities with a good program show a marked decrease in assaults and injuries.

The fact of the matter is that OSHA has no "standard" that requires healthcare facilities to adopt a violence prevention program, and as such, lacks enforcement authority.
This must change and it is the recommendation of the study.

There is much more work for us to do, but we must do it.
Unfortunately, healthcare facilities would rather replace us that protect us.
We must protect ourselves and each other.

GAO Report on Workplace Violence Summary

Safe Staffing CT

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