Critics urge execs to take safety issues more seriously
When Jeaux Rinehart boarded the bus home from his Seattle emergency department one summer night in 2010, jangled nerves at the end of his shift finally forced the realization that his 32-year career as an ER nurse was at an end.
Back in 2008, Rinehart had been hit by a billy-club-wielding heroin user while working in the ER. The following year brought the death of a close friend following a violent struggle in the ER of a different hospital to the south. Then, that night in July 2010, an intox- icated patient spit on him, escaped wrist restraints, tried punching him in the face, and then threatened to kill him, according to a King County probable cause affidavit.
“I got on the bus and started thinking, if someone started calling me names and spitting on me here, I wouldn’t take it. But at work, I have to,” Rinehart said in an interview. “And I remember thinking, this is insane. … You wouldn’t take it at home, you wouldn’t take it at the mall, or on the bus, or anywhere. But at work you are supposed to take it?”
Not long afterward, Rinehart, who asked that his hospital not be named, received a follow-up call about a job prospect and finally did what other ER nurses all over the nation privately mull—he walked away from a long career in nursing because of the tide of workplace violence and the persistent fear for his personal safety.
The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration has long identified violence as an occupational hazard for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. Just last month the federal agency unveiled new rules to help local inspectors assess the safety of hospitals and healthcare facilities following incidents of violence.
Looking at the statistics, it’s not hard to see why.
The average American worker stands a 1.7in-10,000 chance of being assaulted on the job, but for registered nurses in hospitals the risk is more than tripled, at 6.1 per 10,000— higher chances of assault than faced by taxi-
New rules now help inspectors assess the safety of hospitals. Officials, left, at Johns Hopkins Hospital hold a news conference in 2010 after Paul Warren Pardus shot and killed his mother in her hospital room.