The ER is open 24/7. It provides unrestricted access to the public. Nurses and doctors are trained to help all in need of medical attention. However, the staff is exposed constantly to an un-screened and potentially high-risk population for violent behavior.
I have two sisters that are emergency room nurses. They have both dealt with violent patients. Both have been hit, kicked and threatened. One of my sisters was even seriously injured by an inmate that was receiving care. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the dangers for nurses in the ER.
ER nurses can deal with individuals that are suicidal, schizophrenic, drug addictive, and/or violent criminals all in a shift.
When dealing with a violent offender, the police can call for back-up. They have a variety of weapons to defend themselves with such as: OC Spray, ASP batons, and a gun. Additionally, a police officer also has the authority to place the offender in a holding cell. Once the fight is over, the criminal is transported to the hospital for care. The criminal arrives at the hospital. The ER reality -- nurses deal with the same violent criminals without the back-up, weapons, or authority to place in a cell.
I have had people tell me that the nurse can strap the violent patient to the bed and call security. Yes, they can; however, how will they get straps on a strung out, violent criminal who attempted to harm the police? Nurses are not trained in self defense or take down procedures.
If a person potentially overdosing PCP is transported to the ER, the ER nurses are dealing with the same violent, strong, crazed individual that the police would. If a criminal is injured, the police take them to the hospital. These criminals may have raped, burned or killed innocent people. Again, nurses do not have the same defense training as a police officer.
What about the mental ill patient that has not committed a crime but is in need of medical treatment? These patients also pose a tremendous risk for the people that give them care. These patients often do not come into the hospital with the police. The nurses may never see any security with these individuals, but this situation can still be very dangerous for all who care for this patient.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2000, the injury rate for nurses is among the highest, and 25 of every 10,000 full-time nurses were injured in workplace assaults. This rate is much higher than private-sector industries, which is 2 per 10,000.
The reality is cops, correctional officers and nurses all deal with the same people. Nurses are the only ones that have had no training on how to deal with hand-to-hand combat, have no radio, no weapons, and no real lifeline to call for back-up.
I admire the work that they do and the heroic conditions that they perform under each and every shift!
Victim or Bad Ass??? - I say both!
Sheryl McCollum, MS Director Cold Case Investigative Research Institute
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