Wednesday, August 10, 2011

L.A. Times: Violence afflicts ER workers

The L.A. Times recently wrote a report on violence against ER workers. The article was for the most part very well done. It listed several high profile cases over the past years and a brief description of what happened. It included a 2009 drunk patient who chased nurses with scissors. A gunman in 1993 who opened fire on an emergency room. Unfortunately, I can tell you first hand that these so called "high profile" events are all too common. It was actually just last year a hospital 30 minutes from me had a "Code Silver". A Code Silver is a hospital code stating an armed and dangerous person. This was NOT a drill but luckily they talked down the gunman into giving up. Still other oddities occur like suicide attempts (sometimes by visitors), as well as people try to falsify that they are a doctor. The L.A. times gives a survey that says 40% of ER workers were assaulted over the last year. This number is almost certainly higher and and the average level of assault is high as well.
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. 

20 comments:

  1. Ouch wouldn't want to be in a code silver. Nice read.

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  2. Jeez, man. I got a lot more respect for you ER techs now. I hope the instances where you have to deal with that are fewer and farther between!

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  3. That sounds super messed up. I would not for the love of me, work in a Hospital.

    Anyway, nice interesting read. :)

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  4. i got a lot of respect for you guys

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  5. 40% of ER workers assaulted in the last year... Jesus, I didn't know that. Dangerous job you've got.

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  6. do you not get danger pay? thats a ridiculously high statistic. hope you stay safe

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  7. That's frightening, I was looking into to changing careers into the Med field. Good info, thanks for the headsup.

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  8. I seriously have more respect for your profession (I already did) after reading your blog, its great!! :)

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  9. I never understood why someone would try to hurt the person that's helping him. :S

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  10. You guys are seriously underpaid. I love our medical staff at the NHS, they are amazing! +followed

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  11. I absolutely love that medical staff!
    +Follow

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  12. Your line of work is sure dangerous, you've got to be a good person to keep trying to help those who're trying to hurt you.

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  13. I read that as well, i had never even thought about that issue before... you think they'd be content to let people help them. Mental illness is seriously sad.

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  14. holy crap that sounds tough! Stick with it though, we need people like you!

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  15. wow, man the world need more people like you. gotta bring this shit to daylight.

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  16. its a tough job and have lots of repsect for em

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  17. Saying it sounds tough is an understatement. Keep it up.

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  18. Oh man! I took a lifespan and development course and learned all about psych patients. It's really useful. I learned that when a psych patient threatens you, you have to threaten him/her back with a bigger threat or threaten to kill them and they'll back off. Isn't learning funnn?

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  19. Situated at the fringe of short distance to city, Sant Ritz
    at Potong Pasir (Singapore) in District 13.
    the interlace condo

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