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Patient violence toward healthcare workers on the rise in Michigan

Hospital hallway
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 07:01:08-05

(WXYZ) — Nurses and doctors are up against a lot these days, including a trend in violence in the hospitals they work in.

Healthcare providers say they're being berated, harassed, and in some cases, physically attacked by patients or their loved ones. It's a problem that pre-dated the COVID-19 pandemic and seems to get getting worse.

Experts say there are better policies that can be put in place to protect our healthcare workers.

Jamie Brown, the president of the Michigan Nurses Association, said run-ins with patients can be hard to forget. She once had a patient threaten to stab her and others with a knife.

"The patient ended up getting tased and it was a horrific experience for everyone involved," Brown said.

She's now a critical care nurse in Kalamazoo and said it happened early in her career. Her most recent experience with workplace violence was second-hand.

"We just had a hospital worker's wrist get broken, and there were some broken windows in our emergency room from a patient that was violent," she said.

According to U.S. labor statistics on private industries, 76^ of intentional injuries inflicted by others in 2020 were reported in the healthcare and social assistance sector.

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association said the data they've collected on such incidents is alarming.

"Not surprisingly, those instances in every case on all of these metrics I mentioned are on the rise and some cases very significantly so," Dr. Christopher Freese, a professor of nursing at the University of Michigan, said.

He added that hospitals usually have internal reporting systems, which tend to be complex and time-consuming.

"We do need to make this easy and streamlined for folks to report," he said.

I contacted three of metro Detroit's largest hospital systems – Henry Ford, Beaumont, and the Detroit Medical Center. Each of their statements can be found at the end of the article.

The Michigan Nursing Association is hoping to pass a State Senate and House bill that would require hospitals to create a workplace violence prevention plan and train employees on reporting violence, using de-escalation and other techniques.

Beaumont Health

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many very stressful, heartbreaking situations, and we support and empathize with families and loved ones in these challenging situations. Beaumont is a healing environment where we strive to create comforting environments in our hospitals for our patients, families and staff. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of aggression."

Detroit Medical Center

"The Detroit Medical Center is committed to protecting our employees and providing the support they need to ensure they have a safe work environment.​"

Henry Ford Health System

“Violence against or hostility towards our team members is unacceptable. Unfortunately, like other healthcare systems, we do see this happen. While we are not seeing an overall recorded increase in physical violence against our team members during the pandemic, we have seen incidents involving patients or visitors becoming violent, often in response to safety measures like masking and visitation policies. “We’re fully committed to ensuring the safest environment for our team members, patients and visitors, including providing on-site security. We also offer and highly recommend our team members undergo regular de-escalation training. Our teams have always given their all to this community, especially over the last 21 months, and need all the support they can get.”