'Take care of yourself too': Nurses rally in Kane County against hospital violence

Saturday, 12 August 2017, 08:13:22 AM. Nurses are not anyone's punching bags, and they're done letting patients treat them as such, they said at a rally in St. Charles on Friday.

Nurses are not anyone's punching bags, and they're done letting patients treat them as such, they said at a rally in on Friday.

On the green lawn outside the Kane County Judicial Center, nurses and others preached awareness and reform of the way workplace violence affects not just nurses, but all types of medical workers.

"Stop martyring yourself to nursing," said Janie Garner, a nurse and executive director of Show Me Your Stethoscope, the non-profit nursing group that organized the rally. "It's not helping."

Throughout the event, which lasted more than three hours and drew about 100 people, Doris Carroll — whose involvement in advocacy groups includes being vice president of the Illinois Nurses Association — led several chants the crowd loudly repeated, such as "What do we want? Stamp out violence. When do we want it? Now."

The group chose the site of the event because Tywon Salters had been an inmate at the Kane County Jail when he was taken to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva for medical treatment in May. Five days after he was admitted, Salters got the gun of a corrections officer guarding him and took two nurses hostage, instigating a standoff that ended when a SWAT officer fatally shot him.

Several speakers Friday referenced what happened at Delnor as a catalyst in their decision to start speaking up about issues related to violence in hospitals. Some described patients physically harming caregivers or said they'd long suppressed their frustrations.

Organizers stressed a need for violence-prevention programs involving both hospital and law enforcement officials, training for hospital workers for both de-escalation of incidents and self-defense and better staffing at health care organizations.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show hospital employees become injured on the job by another person acting intentionally at significantly higher rates than other private industries, with 8.5 injury cases per 10,000 full-time hospital workers compared to 1.7 cases for all private industries in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

Even though Illinois in 2014 made aggravated assault to a health care worker a felony offense, similar to enhanced penalties in several other states, nurses say they still face challenges getting charges approved, regardless of whether their employers are on board.

The only male nurse who spoke, Andrew Lopez, talked about his own experience dealing with workplace violence. Supervisors discouraged him from reporting it, but he did anyway, he said.

Talking after the rally, Lopez said he thinks a female nurse in his position may have faced harsher repercussions than he did. While men are also victims of violence in hospitals, it's much more prevalent among women, Lopez said.

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