Byline: August Gribbin, The Washington Times
Hospitals can be scary places for patients, but for doctors, nurses and others who work there they can be downright dangerous.
"Every emotion is expressed in the emergency room every day. Emotions are raw, and there's always a risk. Abusive patients and the families of patients can become violent as the result of stress," says Dr. Thomas Arnold.
Dr. Arnold, a professor of medicine and acting chairman of the emergency medicine department at Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center, adds:
"Things [such as patient care] can never go fast enough for patients' relatives. Sometimes they object violently when other, more urgent patients are treated before their relatives. Then, too, people sometimes turn on doctors when, unfortunately, we must inform them their relative has died."
Consider what happened to Dr. Paul Matera, emergency room physician at the District's Providence Hospital.
"It was about 2 a.m. I was working on a trauma patient with numerous, serious chest and abdomen stab wounds. He was 19 or 20 years old, and very large, weighing about 250 pounds. I had been talking to him, telling him what I was doing while trying to stabilize him and keep him alive," he said.
"Suddenly he sat up and spun me around. He hit me in the back of the neck with his fist, rupturing a number of discs."
Despite the pain, Dr. Matera continued to treat his patient. He made little of the assault then or later, although it nearly crippled him.
Subsequently Dr. Matera has had three surgeries to repair the damage to his back. He says the latest surgery performed this summer has finally eased the persistent pain. Two years ago the American Medical Association awarded him its rarely presented Medal of Valor for "courage under extraordinary …