Hospital Hazard: In Some Communities, Emergency Rooms Seem under Siege. Health-Care Officials Fear Chaos Would Follow a Terrorist Strike. (Medicine)

By Gribbin, August | Insight on the News, March 18, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Hospital Hazard: In Some Communities, Emergency Rooms Seem under Siege. Health-Care Officials Fear Chaos Would Follow a Terrorist Strike. (Medicine)


Gribbin, August, Insight on the News


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," says Thomas Arnold, a professor of medicine and acting chairman of the Emergency Medicine Department at Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center. Care rarely comes fast enough for visitors, Arnold explains. "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 Paul Matera, emergency-room physician at Providence Hospital in Washington. "It was about 2 a.m.," Matera recalls. "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. 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, Matera continued to treat his patient. Subsequently, he has had three surgeries to repair the damage to his back, the latest performed this summer finally easing the persistent pain. Two years ago, the American Medical Association awarded him its rare Medal of Valor for "courage under extraordinary circumstances in nonwartime situations."

Matera's story and similar tales are being repeated these days partly as a result of Sept. 11: Hospital administrators and health-care officials are examining whether medical facilities are equipped to cope with the consequences of terrorist acts. In the process, they have found that many lack the ability to protect their workers even in normal times -- much less in moments of chaos.

"Despite the increase in concerns about bioterrorist threats, respondents cited patient violence as the No. 1 threat to emergency-department personnel," reports a survey that asked emergency-room managers and other representatives from 50 hospitals about worker safety. The finding coincides with larger studies by the 154,229-member American Nurses Association (ANA). In its national, online survey of 4,826 nurses conducted in November, less than 20 percent said they felt safe in their "current working environment." Seventeen percent reported being assaulted physically in the last year, and more than half were threatened or abused verbally.

"More assaults occur in the health-care and social-services industries than in any other," states the largely ignored, voluntary Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care Workers prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The document points out that the incidence of violence is increasing, noting that between 1980 and 1990, 106 occupational violence-related deaths occurred among health-care workers including physicians, pharmacists, nurses and nurse's aides.

"The nursing staff at a psychiatric hospital sustained 16 assaults per 100 employees per year," according to the report. "This rate compares with 8.3 injuries of all types per 100 full-time workers in all industries and 14.2 per 100 full-time workers in the construction industry."

Officials of the ANA and the American College of Emergency Room Physicians, among others, say that about 80 percent of cursing, pushing, slapping, punching and throwing events go unreported. Some of the victims keep quiet because they consider such behavior normal job hazards. Others contend hospitals and hospital-management groups ignore their complaints and at times retaliate by firing them or transferring them to less desirable jobs.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Hospital Hazard: In Some Communities, Emergency Rooms Seem under Siege. Health-Care Officials Fear Chaos Would Follow a Terrorist Strike. (Medicine)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?