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When Patients Attack Doctors And Nurses

With the attention rightly focused on patient safety, what about healthcare workers? It’s somewhat of a hidden phenomenon, but attacks on doctors and nurses are on the rise.

Rahul Parikh writes about this in a recent Slate piece. He cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found “healthcare workers are twice as likely as those in other fields to experience an injury from a violent act at work, with nurses being the most common victims.”

In the article, Parikh goes on to detail an attack on a physician who initially refused to give his patient opioid pain medications.

Here’s the excerpt:

Mansfield’s attacker wanted pain killers. “I need you to give me more Percocets, given the shape I’m in after what I’ve been through,” the patient said in a soft but gravelly voice. What I’ve been through apparently referred to a grudge he held against an orthopedic surgeon whose rough examination exacerbated his neck pain. Mansfield says, “[H]e tried to reproduce the ‘painful range of motion exam’ on me, such that if I knew how painful it was—I would understand how much he needed the Percocet.”

Much of teaching on how to avoid potentially violent situations are ineffective in the long term. That leads to more extreme solutions — like carrying a gun. Indeed, according to a survey conducted in 2005, 40 percent of emergency physicians admitted to carrying a gun. That seems like an incredibly high number to me.

Just like we should be concerned about patient safety, the safety of healthcare workers is no less important. That means doctors and nurses need to tell their stories and bring this issue to light.

And in the case where patients attack doctors or nurses, getting the police involved and pressing charges is an option that needs to be seriously considered.

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*


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