Hospital shooting points out dangers nurses face



Posted on August 16, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 29 at 10:26 AM

Video: Hospital shooting points out dangers nurses face

SEATTLE - An emergency room is a place of healing, but for the nurses who work there, at any moment it can be a place of danger.

On Saturday, 42-year-old Joseph Burkett was brought to the emergency room at Providence St Peter Hospital in Olympia.

Police confiscated two guns from Burkett, but he pulled out a third gun in the ER. A police officer shot and killed Burkett.

"I gurantee you that St. Peter's will be looking at their security a lot differently now," said Jeaux Rinehart, who knows only too well the dangers medical personnel face every single day and night in an emergency room. An ER nurse for the past 30 years, he says it's becoming harder and harder for nurses to do their jobs safely.

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"I got up and turned my back for a moment and I got beat in the head with a big billy club and then as I turned around I got punched in the face and broke my cheek, and I think two days later I was back at work because we were short staffed," he said.

A study from the Emergency Nursing Association released just a few weeks ago confirms that nurses in the ER face many dangers. According to their survey of nearly 3,500 nurses, more than half of emergency nurses reported physical violence on the job, including hitting, pushing, kicking and spitting. One in five nurses cited verbal abuse, cursing and threats.

The study released precipitating factors that lead to the violence include patients high on drugs or alcohol, mentally ill patients and overcrowded emergency rooms with long waits.

"Solutions are you need to lock down the emergency department you need doors that do not open and close unless somebody specifically lets you in you need barriers you need security forces or police forces in the treatment area," said Rinehart.

That study also found that two out of three of the nurses had considered leaving their jobs because of the violence.

Hospitals do have security measures in place, and training for nurses for violent situations.

It is a felony to kick or assault a hospital worker, but nurses say protection is what they need before the attack, not after.