Seeking safety on the job
Healthcare workers are at high risk for experiencing violence on the job.
It was close to midnight on Oct. 12, 2012, when Pamela Neuberth, a registered nurse at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, Md., was leaving at the end of her shift. She noticed a patient who seemed to be agitated pacing by the door. Normally, Neuberth would have requested help from security to get the patient back to her room, but the guards were gone. There were, however, other staff members nearby. “We asked her to move away from the door, and she acted as if she were complying,” says Neuberth. But the patient grabbed her and began slamming her head into the cement wall. It took four colleagues to restrain the patient, but not before Neuberth sustained injuries that required surgery. She now has vertigo, problems with her jaw and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite her injuries, Neuberth is determined to remain on the job—but she is also very aware of the potential for violence.
Springfield needs to have a system in place to better protect its workers, says Neuberth, a member of AFT Healthcare-Maryland. She wrote to several state lawmakers asking them to consider reclassifying the psychiatric hospital as a forensic psychiatric hospital, which would make it a maximum security facility staffed with correctional officers 24 hours a day. “A police officer has a bulletproof vest,” she says. “A firefighter has fireproof equipment. What does a psychiatric healthcare worker have?”
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