|Patients are frustrated with wait times|
but our hands are tied.
The L.A. Times is correct in pointing out that most attacks are done by people who have an altered mental status. An altered mental status could be anyone who can't think straight (disease, drugs, mental illness). A lot of people don't realize that hospital ERs are essentially dumping points for drunks, drug addicts, and psychiatric patients. Drunks are problematic because their judgement is so impaired they make very bad choices, like attempting to pee on your leg while you stand with your back turned. Or they can certainly be more violent. After several of our own high profile events, my hospital requires that all psych patients have a constant sitter. When our supervisor can't find someone to come in and do it, you guessed it, that responsibility falls to me or my coworkers. Psych patients are difficult because they are very unpredictable. We can't restrain or medicate them until they are aggressive (which is often too late). Also, once they get dumped at an ER, the psych wards often won't take them back. We have had psych patients (adults AND children) wait days before we could find them a proper care facility.
|Psych patients are often unpredictable.|
So how bad is the problem really? You have to understand that at the end of a 12 hour shift, the last thing you want to do is fill out pages and pages of an incident report about how an 84yr old patient with dementia suckered punched you in the face. Then you have to go down to employee health and wait for a few hours. Even if hospital unions try to cash in on this issue, many hospital are not unionized and their effectiveness will be minimal at best. So it may be awhile before we have numbers showing just how bad it is.
Source: Violence afflicts ER workers