By Melissa Nguyen, Clinical Nurse Manager at Medical Solutions
Elise Wilson was 65 years old when she cheated death. She had been a nurse for 47 years and spent 36 of those years in the emergency room. The night of June 14, 2017, started like any other night in the ER. Elise took her patient’s vitals and the patient showed no obvious signs of being upset when she turned to enter the results in the computer. But when Elise looked over, she saw that the chair her patient had been sitting was now empty. She turned to look where he’d gone and he punched her in the head while also exposing a knife. Elise was stabbed in the neck and arm a total of 11 times, severing her brachial arterial and causing her to nearly bleed to death. The patient was briefly distracted by a security guard who was walking by and Elise was able to run out to the trauma room where she collapsed.
In 2019, Lynne Truxillo was working at a behavioral health center in Louisiana when a patient began attacking another nurse. Truxillo intervened and the patient attacked her too, causing an injury to her right leg and a head injury from having her head struck against a desk. One week after the incident, Ms. Truxillo died from blood clots in her leg and both lungs, which coroners ruled had resulted from the previous week’s altercation.
These are just a couple of upsetting stories, because unfortunately violence in the workplace is not an uncommon thing for healthcare workers to face. According to the American Nurses Association, one out of four nurses* are assaulted on the job. There is zero tolerance for violent behavior and under no circumstances should violence of any type be acceptable or considered just a part of working in nursing.
Here are a few suggestions to protect yourself if you feel threatened in any way on the job:
Attempt to Escape
The first thing you should do is try to remove yourself from a dangerous situation. If you are unable to escape, make enough noise to gain attention to get help.
Find a Barrier
If you are unable to run far enough to get away, then find something that creates a barrier between you and the person assaulting you — a tray, computer, or piece of furniture could be used as barriers.
If someone is threatening or attacking you, defend yourself with as much force as you can in order to get them to stop. At this point, you are acting in self-defense so fight back like your life depends on it. Continue to make as much noise as possible to gain attention to the situation.
Report the Assault
Report the incident immediately in accordance with your facility’s chain of command.
Experiencing workplace violence is not just a physical issue. It can also cause emotional and mental trauma. Seek help from your EAP (employee assistance program) or trauma counseling as needed..
If you are a survivor of workplace violence, you are not alone and it is not your fault. Please reach out to your supervisor, recruiter and/or Medical Solutions Clinical Team members to help and support you.
*Source: American Nurses Association (ANA). (2018). Workplace Violence.