Nurses call for action to address emergency room violence

Published: May. 1, 2019 at 5:43 PM CDT
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Taking care of patients, that's one of the main duties of a nurse. But a recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians shows nurses are on the receiving end of a shocking amount of violent acts in the workplace and the number of those attacks is increasing.

"It can be anywhere from threats to verbal abuse, all the way up to physical aggression and harming our caregivers so it's something that definitely hits home for our department," says Kip Littau one of the nurse managers at the Rapid City Regional Hospital Emergency Department.

According to the survey, 47 percent of emergency physicians have been physically assaulted at work, something emergency staff here in Rapid City see too often.

"We're working with people that are under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol, crisis. Emotions are running high for both patients, family members and even our team," says Littau.

For patients and their families, emergency rooms can be a scary place, especially when you're not sure what's happening to your loved one, that's where it becomes all too common for verbal aggression to manifest itself.

"It's certainly going to take everyone kind of back the first few times that it happens and you think, I'm a nurse I'm here to help, I am surprised I'm having to experience this. In the ER even after you've been here awhile you realize how common it is and how to expect it," says Littau.

Now, there's a federal law making it a felony to attack emergency staffers.

"It's in a way kind of sad to see that this is where we've come with our communities and patients that we take care of but it's reassuring to be able to put some teeth behind, it's not acceptable in our department for us to protect our people," says Littau.

Staff at Regional Health have to complete 12 hours of crisis prevention intervention program before hitting the emergency room.