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HL20: AnnMarie Papa, DNP, RN—Protecting Nurses

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

Nurses said they were spit on, hit, pushed or shoved, scratched, and kicked in psych units, EDs, waiting rooms, and even in geriatric units. The perpetrators usually were patients and their family members and visitors. Verbal hostility was common as well. At least 70% of respondents said they had been yelled at, cursed, intimidated, and harassed with sexual language or innuendo.

Reports of such incidents rarely made their way to administrative offices before this, says Papa, who is the clinical director of Emergency Nursing at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia.

“Administrators just don’t spend a lot of time down there, and nurses never used to complain; they thought of it as part of their job.”

 Additionally, some nurses said they didn't report incidents because of hospital reporting policies that were unclear.

Papa has been working in ED settings for 35 years, and over that time, she says, "I've seen the landscape of the emergency department and the types of patients that we have change. Now we have a lot of issues with flow and overcrowding and patients with behavioral health disorders."

She's even been a victim of violence herself. Once, a patient punched her in the arm. Another patient, who was upset with the care he received, threatened to kill her. It frightened her so much she reported him to police, which sent investigators to the patient's home.

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