Hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing. But the people who work there can tell a very different story.
Some patients and family members verbally threaten and sometimes attack the people helping them. Some of those workers and nurses are ready to tell their stories.
“There have been several nurses who have been attacked,” says one nurse.
“I’ve had co-workers that have responded, that have gotten bitten, bitten severely,” said another.
“There were injuries, there were injuries,” yet another nurse said. “There were staff injuries, and patients, unfortunately, go after each other.”
All of these nurses are still working, and so they have asked to remain anonymous. However, studies back up their claims.
According to a Press Ganey analysis from 2022, on average 57 nurses are assaulted every day in the United States.
A National Nurses United survey from 2020 showed that of the 15,000 registered nurses nationwide, 20%, or 3,000, reported they were facing increased workplace violence.
Additionally, the website Healthcare Finance News reports that the likelihood of healthcare workers being exposed to violence is higher than prison guards or police officers.
Hospital administrators say they are aware of the problem of assaults on their staff. Security has been beefed up and training is ongoing on how to de-escalate a potentially violent patient or family member.
However, one Indiana congressman who is a physician and surgeon himself said that is not enough.
“Almost half of nurses are reporting some physical threats to their bodies, where people grabbed them, pushed them,” Indiana congressman Larry Buschon said. “And then almost 70% are reporting verbal abuse. So, this is really a critical thing that’s happening in our healthcare system.”
Bucshon said he has seen the violence firsthand.
“[There have been] multiple times where nurses came to me and said one of my patients’ family members was verbally abusing them and stepping towards them in a threatening manner,” he said. “There were so many of those, I can’t remember a specific case.”
What is happening in hospitals has also played out in the airline industry. There are numerous cases of flight attendants being accosted by passengers and the incidents are then posted online.
Nurses and healthcare workers suffer many of the same problems, yet it is rare video is posted.
Congress has passed a law making it a felony to hit or injure anyone in the airline industry. Congressman Bucshon said he wants the same protections for healthcare workers and nurses.
“What it will do is essentially create similar penalties to if you assault an airline pilot or a flight attendant,” Buschon said. “It puts in place more stringent federal charges for if you are threatening or physically threatening health care providers.”
Until that legislation passes, healthcare workers and nurses will not have the same protections as the airline industry, and Buschon said the violence will continue. Some said they view it as a silent epidemic that deters people from hospital work.
“She was an older nurse and she was very seriously injured,” said one R.N. who asked not to be identified. “She had a couple of fractures. She had a concussion.”
Congressman Buschon said the silence around this abuse must be broken.
“Unless people like yourself or myself look at the actual data, people would be shocked to know how much of this is occurring,” he said.
Congressman Bucshon said his proposed bill, called ‘The SAVE Act’, has the support of the American Hospital Association and that he is hoping to move it forward during the next congressional session.
If you are a healthcare worker, nurse or physician with a story of abuse in the workplace, CBS4 reporter Debby Knox would like to hear from you. She asks that you contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.