'Happens too often': Stabbing of HSN nurse by patient highlights pervasive violence in healthcare

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According to Greater Sudbury Police, on Oct. 16, a female staff member went to check on a 62-year-old man who was a patient at the hospital's Ramsey Lake Health Centre, and when she entered the room, he was holding a wrench.

A second incident with more serious consequences involving the same man happened the next day, Oct. 17. The patient blocked the door to his room, but staff members gained entry. Once staff members were inside the room, the man brandished a screwdriver and stabbed one of the staff members

While the first incident involving the wrench occurred on Oct. 16, it was not reported until Oct. 20, a couple of days after the second incident where the worker was stabbed...

“Unfortunately, workplace violence happens too often in hospitals and reducing how often this happens is a priority for us. We have a workplace violence prevention policy in place with the goal of avoiding violence from happening in the first place. We also provide training to our staff on how to prevent and manage workplace violence...

Steve Hall:

I beg to differ. Not sure how this man was able to bring or get possession of a wrench in the first place! That the staff had the presence of mind to run is great! She could have froze. That a report was not written is unacceptable! I’m certain others intervene in this case and also had the responsibility of documenting this very serious incident.

The fact that he had a screwdriver in his possession the very next day and had barricaded himself should have been an automatic response from security or law enforcement! Based on the behaviour he had displayed the night before, staff (unionized or not!) should have not been the ones leading this intervention.

The policy referred to is not avoidance. No one has the discretion to avoid a crisis. Negotiating and responding to aggressive and violent behaviours require more than avoidance. It is by far the most complex part of nursing and the one that staff feel the less prepared for. Trauma informed practice highlights the challenges linked to past memories and how they could suddenly resurface with very little warnings. Trauma is often associated with hospitals (rarely make a trip at the hospital to be treated for happiness!) from a patient perspective.

It is time for nursing to take a good look at their practices and realize that the role they have to play is not only to maintain their safety but to also ensure that they are well prepared to recognize the early signs of agitation in order to provide a response that will attenuate the emotional escalation rather than focus strictly on behaviours....always remember that anger is very often a by-product of fear! Why was this man seeking a way to protect himself? Why did he lock himself in a room? Was he displaying these same aggressive behaviours when he was admitted? Why did it take more than 96 hours to write a report around a very dangerous situation involving a man running after staff with a weapon...

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