Nurses take the hits!

I’ve read two articles this week about violence in the workplace and nurses. From my viewpoint that looks through 30 years of nursing, it’s like reading articles about sexual harassment. My response is, “DUH!”

The posterior part of my anatomy was first pinched during my second year in nursing school. I was embarrassed, angry, and frustrated because the responses from teachers, fellow nurses, and hospital administration were shrugs and “yeah, so?” As I continued through my nursing career I’ve been bit, slapped, had instruments thrown at me in the middle of a surgery, and the verbal abuse has been anything from profanity to having the telephone hung up in the middle of my report to an MD that should have ended with an order for a patient.

If you do the math, you will realize that my career began long before the legislature got in on the act to pass laws and teach us all how to be ‘correct’. I found the direct approach worked better for me. Confronting doctors or patients who stepped over a clearly defined line (except for the most ignorant!) with a specific explanation of the respect that I expected has always ended with the person never giving me a problem again. Always. I don’t think I am anyone with special abilities to get my point across. The first time this confrontation was necessary shot my nerves for about ten minutes of shaking in the bathroom but was easier the next time. I never spoke up in front of staff or patients if it was a doctor and I never spoke profanely or disrespectfully to a patient. I just demanded what was due to me.

The articles written from Massachusetts by spoke of violence that is far above anything of my experience. Nurses reported physical assault with weapons, including dirty needles, sexual assault, and even strangulation. This type of situations should be swiftly dealt with by the local law enforcement and defense attorneys should be slapped down by discerning judges and juries. ZERO tolerance in schools should be the example followed in health care facilities. Nurses become nurses because they have a gift of caring. That doesn’t make us stupid or free to take anything that a patient dishes out! I have always said that I do not begrudge my friends who are plumbers and electricians and make $10-$15 more per hour than I do but I do expect to treated with respect for the professional that I am.

Legislation is not going to turn the tide of violence. Personal choice to stand on the side of the line of moral behavior and corporate choice of “zero tolerance” in facilities so that employees know that they are held in higher esteem than financial profit will make the 90-degree turn away from this violent trend in art of nursing.

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