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US hospitals equipping nurses with panic buttons to prevent assaults | US health care

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I.In 2019, Laura Paul, a registered nurse, was seeing a sedated patient in the intensive care unit at Cox Medical Center Branson in southwestern Missouri when she “went from cold to rocking in seconds,” she said.

Paul, a house supervisor who moves between different units in the hospital, tried to dodge the patient’s attack and yelled for help.

Fortunately, a nurse in an adjoining room overheard Paul, ran over, and called for additional help. With four or five people they managed to sedate the patient, who was seriously ill and was unaware of his actions. While staff were able to immobilize the patient, the ICU had been louder, as is common, that might not have been the case, Paul said.

Now hospital administrators plan to provide more than 300 panic buttons to healthcare staff over the next two months, which Paul believes could help avoid potentially dangerous situations. The hospital is purchasing the buttons with a $ 132,000 grant from a local charity, the Skaggs Foundation, due to growing concern about violence against its staff, a problem that predates the Covid-19 pandemic but appears to have since then operated in hospitals across the country. .

In fact, across the US, as US hospitals and clinics have been affected by the impact of Covid-19, there have been reports that staff are facing increased threats and violence, making an already difficult and dangerous job even more so.

Lynne Yaggy, who became a nurse in 1991 and is now the director of nursing and vice president of clinical services at Branson Hospital, said: “There has always been violence against healthcare workers, but what I have seen is an escalation in intensity and number of incidents “.

Some hospitals have limited the number of public entrances. In Idaho, nurses said they are afraid to go to the grocery store unless they have removed their gowns so they are not addressed by angry residents conspiracy theories about the vaccine.

Doctors and nurses at a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, hospital have been accused of killing patients by grieving relatives who do not believe Covid-19 is real, said hospital spokeswoman Caiti Bobbitt. Others have been the subject of hurtful rumors spread by people angered by the pandemic.

“Our healthcare workers feel almost like Vietnam veterans, scared to go into the community after a shift,” Bobbitt said.

During Labor Day weekend in Colorado, a bystander threw an unidentified liquid at a nurse working at a mobile vaccine clinic in suburban Denver. Signs posted around the clinic’s tent were run over and destroyed by another person in a van.

About 3 in 10 nurses who took part in a survey this month by a coordinating organization of nurses’ unions in the U.S. reported an increase in violence where they work, due to factors including staff shortages and more restrictions on employment. visitors. That was a 2-in-10 increase in March, according to the National Nurses United survey of 5,000 nurses.

Still, while healthcare workers and people who study workplace violence say that panic buttons help protect hospital staff, they also say that they are not a panacea, but should be part of a greater effort to improve safety in hospitals.

“There is no simple solution,” said Judy Arnetz, a Michigan State University professor who studies the health, wellness and safety of healthcare workers.

Hospitals must also take steps such as training staff in de-escalation techniques and implementing a system to report and collect incident data, said Arnetz, who has studied workplace violence in the healthcare sector for more than 25 years. .

Healthcare workers already faced a higher risk than other parts of the workforce and were experiencing a steady increase in violent incidents prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Arnetz attributes the reported increase in violence in part to increased patient volume and the inability of Covid patients to be with loved ones due to quarantines.

“Violence can come from both the patients themselves and from [their] loved ones, ”Arnetz said. “There is a lot of frustration. Patients may feel great discomfort, pain. “

Concerns about safety have also become a priority among staff considering working at a hospital in recent years, said William Mahoney, president of Cox Branson Hospital.

“When we were recruiting nursing students, they used to ask, ‘How much money are you going to pay me? What department am I going to work in? ‘”Mahoney recalled. In 2018, nurses started asking, “How are you going to protect me?”

In 2020, CoxHealth tested panic buttons with staff at its hospital in Springfield, Missouri. The staff wore the buttons, which are about half the size of a credit card, on their identification tags. When staff pressed the button, an alert was triggered through the same nurse call system that a patient could use to request that staff turn on the television.

The alert and location of the nurse also goes to security personnel.

Mahoney said the panic buttons made public safety officers and nurses respond faster to incidents. An internal survey of clinical staff also found that buttons made staff feel more secure, Mahoney said.

Still, panic buttons aren’t the only answer.

The Joint Commission, a nonprofit hospital accreditation organization, issued new workplace violence prevention standards that will go into effect in January and require hospitals to train staff in physical and non-physical intervention skills and to use a reporting process for workplace violence incidents job.

The Chamber also passed the Workplace Violence Prevention Act for Healthcare and Social Service Workers in April. The American Hospital Association opposed the legislation because “hospitals have already implemented policies and programs specifically designed to address workplace violence,” and the new requirements were not justified. letter from the group argued.

A spokesman for the hospital association said in an email that panic buttons are “one of many effective methods hospitals and health systems use to keep their staff safe.”

The nurses at Branson Hospital hope that is the case.

Paul, the nurse involved in the 2019 incident, said the buttons have “given him so much peace of mind, just to know that you are not alone and that there is an easy way to get help.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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