Nurses asking for help with safety

The Michigan Nurses Association said 75% of workplace assaults occur in healthcare. (Source:...
The Michigan Nurses Association said 75% of workplace assaults occur in healthcare. (Source: WILX) (WILX)
Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 4:42 PM EST
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Nurses are a crucial part of the health care system and they're also frequent targets of violence in the workplace, according to their union.

The Michigan Nurses Association said 75% of workplace assaults occur in healthcare. One nurse said she's experienced it and it's time for the state to pass laws protecting them.

"A lot of us have become desensitized to that and feel like it's become a part of our every day, and that's wrong," Katie Pontifex said. "Caring is, as cliché as it sounds, a calling and we shouldn't have to fear for our well-being when we come into work every day to care for others."

Pontifex said she's been working as a nurse for years and that she's experienced her share of workplace violence.

"At the hands of a patient, I was severely scratched and my tendon was twisted and it put me on a work restriction for three months," Pontifex said.

Senate bill 303 and house bill 5089 would require hospitals around the state to work to prevent attacks like that. One of those prevention tools includes de-escalation training, which is something Pontifex said helped her at Sparrow.

"Had I not had the training, I may have suffered a much worse injury. Those techniques that I was taught in that training allowed me to get safely away from the patient and not sustain further injury," Pontifex said.

She said she feels safer working at Sparrow now than she used to and she's hoping these bills in the legislature will help other nurses around the state feel the same way.

"We've seen a huge culture change here and it's that culture of safety that we're trying to promote," Pontifex said.

She said another big factor in reducing workplace violence at Sparrow is the introduction of what's called a behavior escalation response team. Pontifex said she's noticed a big decrease in incidents since it was brought in and she's hoping other hospitals can do the same.

"It's huge to see that, I personally have had to call that. Sometimes for patients escalating their behavior, having someone in uniform in their doorway telling them to calm down is all it takes," Pontifex said.

Pontifex said Sparrow now requires all visitors to present a legal ID between 4 p.m. and midnight. Pontifex said she and other nurses believe that's one of the reasons for a decrease in violent incidents at the hospital.

A spokesperson from Sparrow sent News 10 a statement that said:

“Patients deserve exceptional, high-quality care and Nurses deserve a safe workplace environment to provide that care. Sparrow is continuing to provide education, outreach, tools and resources to assist all nursing staff, including Patient assessments to determine high-risk behaviors; de-escalation training for Leaders, Nurses, and other frontline Caregivers; expanded authority for our Security officers; and a continuing dialogue with Caregivers on strategies to prevent workplace violence.”

Senate bill 303 was introduced back in May and House bill 5089 was introduced in October. Neither of those bills has had a committee hearing yet.

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