Random, possibly drug-fuelled, violence is in the news this week due to the very sad death of an 18 year old boy, hit by a stranger for no reason last Saturday night.
But nurses and other frontline emergency workers are no strangers to this type of violence and abuse [which is why NSWNA is part of the Last Drinks campaign.]. Last month, in an article in The Australian called ‘The Long Night of the Screamers’, columnist Janet Albrechtsen wrote of her shock at the kinds of behaviour she unwillingly witnessed when she had to spend a night in the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital in central Sydney.
“… to fully understand what our doctors and nurses do, it’s worth noting that the “c” word was in full swing that night. A constant stream of patients, mostly men but some women, filled to the brim with alcohol and drugs were screaming abuse at the staff.”
Picture: Craig Greenhill Source: The Australian
…As a naive newcomer to this other world, I noticed there seemed to be more police than medical staff in the room. Among the patients on the 50 beds in the emergency department, was I the only patient there who was not under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs?
A former police officer Tim Priest took up this theme in an article in this Monday’s Daily Telegraph.
A recent University of Wollongong survey of 91 emergency nurses at two NSW south coast hospitals gave a shocking insight into the level of abuse directed towards nursing staff. Thirty-nine nurses reported almost daily abuse while 23 nurses reported being assaulted at least once a month.
Priest’s suggested solution? Emergency department managers must call police to every violent incident and the police must arrest and charge those responsible.
Sounds simple, but the police would probably not thank him for this suggestion as they would find themselves dealing with multiple medical emergencies in the cells.
Emergency departments do find ways to deal with people as they calm down and the drugs wear off. As the head of Emergency told Janet Albrechtsen, by the morning, these same nurses and doctors who have worked a long shift, then sit down and talk to the patients about their problems.
Ian Miller, an RN who blogs from Canberra, told of an incident in ED seen from three points of view. The full picture only comes into focus from hearing all three points of view.
What do you think? How can we make ‘zero tolerance’ really mean zero tolerance? Are these stories of violence and abuse familiar to you or are they sensationalist? How do you cope if you work in an environment like this? Do you agree that abusive patients should be arrested?
[The 3rd international conference on Violence in the Health Sector takes place in Canada in October – this is an international issue.]
Image credit: Picture: Craig Greenhill Source: The Australian