DAN­GER ZONES

Crit­ics urge ex­ecs to take safety is­sues more se­ri­ously

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE -

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-

AP PHOTO

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.

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