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Assaults at Branson, Missouri hospital latest example of nurses in danger

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen
/
Kansas News Service
Nurses are part of the health care profession whose workers are five times more likely to be injured by violence than other private sector industries.

The tripling of attacks on staff by patients at Cox Medical Center is symbolic of what nurses around the state face.

The increase in violence against staff at Cox Medical prompted the use of personal panic buttons.

Patients account for many of the assaults in hospitals. "Injuries are happening every day," says Trevor Wolfe, an emergency nurse for the last 20 years.

Wolfe is a member of the Missouri Nurses Association and an EMS education and quality improvement manager. It was a head injury he received in 2020 as a result of being punched in the face by a patient that Wolfe says, "really knocked me out of my career at the bedside."

That was one of six times Wolfe was punched in the face that year. "That's just one nurse in one emergency department in the state of Missouri."

"Instead of just focusing of what do we do after an incident occurs to try to mitigate it from becoming worse, we need to figure our how to stop them from occurring," which Wolfe says means putting safety first and cost second.

One step Wolfe took was working on a bill that passed through the Missouri legislature in August that made threatening a health care worker a class D misdemeanor.

In addition, nurses who are assaulted only have to give their initials and their facility's name to avoid retribution by their attackers.

As Wolfe notes, "The risk we're willing to take has to do with caring for a patient and not the psychological aspect of being attacked by people . . . the thing that really hurts us most is that the people we're trying to help, are trying to hurt us."

  • Trevor Wolfe, EMS education and quality improvement manager
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Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
Connor Stewart is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date.