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Assault of hospital workers is common, Times investigation finds

July 31, 2011 | 11:27 am

Hospital violence
There is a new push to better protect hospital workers against violence, which some medical professionals and groups believe is rising, according to a Times investigation.

Nearly 40% of employees in California emergency rooms said they had been assaulted on the job in the previous year, according to a survey by UC San Francisco and other researchers in 2007. More than one in 10 emergency room nurses surveyed in 2010 said they had been attacked in the previous week, according to the Emergency Nurses Assn., which represents 40,000 emergency room nurses nationally.

The violence flares most often in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards, say staffers, researchers and security officials. In emergency rooms, waiting times have grown as increasing numbers of unemployed and uninsured patients seek basic care they can't afford to pay for in doctors' offices.

Staffers are obligated by law to evaluate anyone who comes in for treatment, said Michael B. Jackson, an emergency room nurse at UC San Diego Medical Center. He said that whether they be gang members, drug users, psychotic patients or just "people that get frustrated with wait times," they might act out.


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Photo: Emergency room nurse Michael B. Jackson has been attacked on the job. Some patients give warnings, but “other times it just happens,” he said. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times