Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Violence Against Nurses, Attacked At Work, Is Hospital Liable?

On Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 12:59 AM,  wrote:


Dear Mr. Lopez,


I was googling to find out if the hospital is liable if an employee is physically assaulted by a violent pt and came across your site. What can you tell me about this?


Our hospital security officers are not allowed to carry any type of weapon to defend themselves or the patients and staff. We recently had a incident in our ED where a patient assault a nurse and was trying to kill her when security pulled him off of her and he was also beaten up, along with 5 other staff members that tried to subdue him.


If our security was certified to carry stun guns or tasers then many of these people would not have been injured. Our Security Director is very opposed to them carrying any time of defense weapon but he is not here at night when we don’t have extra resources.


What do you think, should hospital security officers be taught proper use and be allowed to carry some type of defense weapon to protect those they are here to protect instead of getting beaten up them self while trying to protect a patient or nurse?





It's a good question and one governed by your hospital and how well it values the safety of its employees.


In most states the only liability a hospital has, is providing "workers compensation" for employees hurt on the job.


If the hospital was grossly negligent in protecting you, you could sue, but most laws are written to protect employers.


This is a case study I wrote a while back exploring the issue. http://www.nursingcasestudy.com


Violent Psychiatric Patient Attacks Nurse, No Legal Recourse Against Facility or Psychiatrist?

Charleston v. Larson, 696 N.E. 2d 793 – IL 1998


Summary: It would seem absurd, that if a physician admits and facility assigns a nurse to care for a known violent patient, that it has no legal obligation to protect that nurse against violence. In this case, a psychiatric patient sought admission to facility. On admission, he threatened to attack a nurse. When the patient would follow through on his threat, the nurse was denied legal recourse against the psychiatrist who could have taken precautions against the attack.



In New Jersey recently, a law was passed making it a felony, to assault a nursing professional.  You can bet, policies are being changed in our hospitals now that assaulting a nurse is "Aggravated Assault." New York and several other states are pushing these laws through.  Perhaps you can suggest them to a local politician.


Madden legislation to upgrade the offense of assaulting a nurse in N.J. now law:"Legislation to upgrade the offense of assaulting a nurse or other health care profession to aggravated assault was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Christie.


The law — whose sponsors include Sen. Fred Madden, D-Washington Township —  upgrades the offense for any individual who assaults a nurse or other healthcare professional, while in the performance of his or her official duties, from a simple assault to aggravated assault. If the nurse or healthcare professional suffers bodily injury as a result of the assault, it will be classified as a third degree crime; otherwise it will be a fourth degree crime."



However it comes down to how your nurses and security staff react.  If you're dealing with violent patients and getting hurt on a regular basis, you need to demand that your hospital do a better job of protecting their staff.


Gather some statistics from the police department and ask a local reporter to do a story on "violent patients" in the ER.  The welfare of nurses is only as important as we remind people it is.


Write a letter to the editor praising the security staff for the great job they are doing keeping patients safe, and mention also the heavy cost they pay.


Hope that is helpful.


FYI, I'd like to add this to my blog with your name and all identifying information removed.


Andrew Lopez, RN





Any questions, please drop me a line.



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