Shooting in Tulsa is a Reminder to Healthcare Workers to Face Violence

OFFERona DeNisco lost track of the violence that occurred during the 20 years of solitude she worked as an emergency room nurse. Buffalo, New York. “Not a single case has gone by without a nurse being punched, kicked, slapped, or pulled by hair. It happens every day,” she said. “I was punched, sent to the ground.” She is also certain that the growing violence in the Buffalo community is spilling over into her hospital, Erie County Medical Center. Recent shootings— most recently the mass shootings that left 10 people dead at a local Buffalo supermarket on May 14 and at a medical facility in Tulsa, Okla. are painful reminders that at any time, violence can threaten her life or the lives of her patients and that keeping things safe seems up to her. that.

“We train for mass casualties, we train active shooters, but none of that really prepares you,” DeNisco said. “We can practice all day, right? That does not mean [much] when I got shot in the face. ”

The Tulsa shooting is a prime example of a growing trend: violence against doctors, nurses and other health care workers. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics dataHealth care and social service workers are five times more likely to be injured by violence in their workplace than other workers, and the number of such injuries has increased dramatically over the past decade. last century — from 6.4 incidents per 10,000 workers annually in 2011, to 10.3 out of 10,000 in 2020. Health workers say the situation has gotten even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic; in September, nearly a third of respondents to a National Nurses United survey said they had experienced an increase in violence at work.

In part, this may be because the pandemic has made people too thin, and left them with less energy to interact politely. Regardless of their political party, tensions are always high because many people get tired of the partisan back and forth on COVID-19Gordon Gillespie, a registered nurse who studies violence against health care workers as a professor at the University of Cincinnati, said. Many health care workers are exhausted from endless worries — about personal protective equipment, the risk of getting sick, or having to help ailing co-workers. “Everybody is just tired and their resilience goes down. And so when you have things happening, you’re more likely to escalate faster,” Gillespie said.

The pandemic has exacerbated many of the underlying problems that lead to violence, exposing deep holes in America’s social safety net and healthcare system. And even more than before the pandemic, doctors and nurses — especially emergency room workers — had to deal with the aftermath. For example, mental health problems, not treated promptly before the crisis, have worsened for many people during the pandemic, in many cases, people being cut off from their lives. support system and add to the daily stress. Murnita Bennett, a psychiatric nurse and DeNisco colleague, can see the change, who says some of the increased violence she’s witnessed is due to patients not receiving the care they needed. they need.

“These abusive patients, get right back into the community. We are keeping violent offenders in hospitals longer, instead of sending them to state hospitals where they can get more help. Bennett said. “I constantly talk to patients and their families, but I always [thinking], where is my exit? What is my body language—[making sure] that I don’t show any aggression…. When you see what happened in Tulsa, we know that at any moment it could be a fact that someone could come in to harm us.”

Racism in the community has become the most terrible form visible in supermarket massacre, in which one gunman targeting black people kills 10 peopleThat has also contributed to the increasingly tense atmosphere at the hospital, says Bennett. During her decades as a nurse, she said, there were times when she was “the only black person in the room” in part because of the hospital’s discriminatory hiring practices. “I don’t think I would have lived this long if I hadn’t fought,” Bennett said. “I fought many battles in this hospital.” Bennett said that the shooting in the supermarket particularly scared her, because her mother lives in the same neighborhood and in recent years she has felt more anxious in the community. “I’m always looking at white people, I’m thinking, Who is this guy? Whose truck is this? I’m looking at people differently,” she said.

Even as healthcare workers face greater challenges during the pandemic, they have less support. Staff shortages are rampant in the US healthcare sector, in part because patients have gotten sicker during the COVID-19 crisis and need more attentive care. As a result, patients do not always receive care as quickly as they expect, which can lead to conflict. Meg Dionne, an emergency room nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland, said that after a patient punched her in January of this year, when she was 26 weeks pregnant, it was difficult for her to see the behavior. mine. If he wasn’t so busy, could you keep him calm? “If you’re pulled in 40 different directions, you can’t meet the needs of people who are scared, vulnerable, and more vulnerable to escalation if they don’t get the right care and on time.” Dionne said.

In the long run, living with such a high risk of violence is clearly unacceptable. That’s key to training health workers against violence, Gordon argues, and making it harder for those with violent intentions to get into hospitals – something he admits is a challenge, because hospitals are designed Designed to greet people, not to lock. Dionne, Bennett and DeNisco all say they are tired of hospitals responding to violence, rather than solving problems. In Dionne’s opinion, the key is new legislation — such as federalism Law to prevent workplace violence against health care and social service workers, among other things, will require facilities to develop a violence prevention plan — which she says will help hospitals better respond to nurses’ safety concerns. However, Bennett and DeNisco argue that the violence will not stop spilling over into hospitals until it is confined to their communities — in part, they say, must include restraint. gun violence and promote safe gun. “Until people start to understand how fragile life is, we’re not going to change this,” DeNisco said.

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