UNAC/UHCP Members to Testify about Workplace Violence on Thursday

June 2014

UNAC/UHCP nurses, along with other concerned members of the public, will testify on June 19 at 10 am at a California Occupational Safety Administration (Cal/OSHA) Health Standards Board public hearing regarding workplace violence. These health care workers will share real-life stories of workplace attacks sustained by health care workers while caring for patients.

UNAC/UHCP surveyed its members and other health care professionals on violence in the workplace and the results show a growing trend in hospitals. For instance, 78% of those surveyed had personally experienced workplace violence or knew a co-worker who has been a victim. The majority of violence is perpetrated by patients. One nurse reported being threatened en masse with coworkers in the ER by a patient who said, “I am going to find out where each one of you lives by looking you up on Facebook. Then I'm going to come over to your house and chop up your children and leave them on your front lawn.”

“UNAC/UHCP nurses and health care professionals are testifying about their experiences because of rampant workplace violence. UNAC/UHCP nurses have reported being punched in the face, kicked in the chest, jaw, ear, or hit in the stomach while pregnant; bitten; slapped; scratched; strangled; pushed to the ground; head butted; trapped by patients in rooms; and assaulted resulting in a concussion—while at work, by patients. These are not rare instances. Recently, two nurses were stabbed in Southern California hospitals while on the job. We’ve had reports too of constant threats to nurses and hospital staff. With very real attacks occurring so frequently, threats and violence cause tremendous stress to health care providers. This is a widespread problem and hospitals need to address this immediately. The vast majority of these cases are preventable. We ask that Cal/OSHA and the legislature act to put safety regulations in pace to protect those working at the hospital from harm,” said UNAC/UHCP Vice President Denise Duncan, RN.

“I was punched by a teenage boy while two hospital security guards stood by doing nothing,” said Elizabeth Hawkins, an RN at the emergency department in Kaiser Riverside, who will testify on June 19. “I missed a week of work with a concussion. Had it not been for the male nurse and technician in the room, I probably would have been killed. It used to be elderly patients and those with dementia who attacked nurses. Now it is the alert patients who come after us when we least expect it.”

“I am assaulted by psych patients almost on a daily basis. I was kicked in the chest, fell backward over someone's leg and suffered a severe tear of my Achilles tendon two years ago. I still have pain as a result. I have been smacked or hit by elderly dementia patients. On Saturday, May 10, I had a patient with a large assault-type knife who was in the ED for psychiatric reasons,” said Marjorie Mitchell, an emergency RN at Kaiser San Diego.”

“I was pushed so hard that I slammed into a doorknob and injured my lower back,” said Lydia Oliver, RN at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California.

The nurses’ testimony follows the patient stabbing of two nurses in Sylmar and Torrance, California at UCLA Medical Centers in April of this year. Thankfully the nurses survived, but the issue remains one that should be addressed immediately.