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New policy aims to protect CT health care workers from violence

WALLINGFORD — Injuries are common in an emergency room, and not always just to the patients.

Charge Nurse Teresa Marx from UConn Health said she has seen her coworkers attacked during the four years she has been working at the emergency room. She said some of her coworkers have been kicked in the head. Others have needed stitches after being punched in the face. 

Marx added that she had a knife pulled on her during triage and a urinal thrown at her. She has also been called “biased” and dealt with a police visit.

“There's not a day goes by that we don't come into the emergency room and know that we are going to be facing some sort of violence, whether it be physical or whether it be verbal abuse that we take from patients,” she said.

Like Marx, health care workers all over the country are also seeing an increase in violence. 

In 2018, the health care and social service industries are five times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall, and also experienced the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In response, the Connecticut Hospital Association announced a new code of conduct policy for patients and families at a press conference on Friday morning at its headquarters in Wallingford. 

Association CEO Jennifer Jackson said Connecticut hospitals have worked for years to support safe workplaces for both caregivers and patients, but the new policy is part of their ongoing response to reduce the growing violence against health care workers. 

“Adopting a statewide policy makes it even clearer that Connecticut hospitals are united against violence, and will not let up on their efforts to ensure the safety of every person in hospitals across the state,” she said.

The new code of conduct is set to apply to 27 of Connecticut's acute care hospitals that are part of the association, as well as several health systems like inpatient, outpatient, office-based, and home care settings. It prohibits aggressive or violent behavior, threats, abusive language, discriminatory language, sexual harassment and weapons.

The new policy does not list potential consequences outside of being asked to leave the facility. However, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Yale New Haven Hospital Ena Williams called the unified policy a “bold step.”

She explained that the policy is not meant for patients who cannot control their behavior while seeking care. Instead, she said the code of conduct is meant to address intolerance against health care workers by creating a safer environment where they can deliver quality care.

“There is a shortage of health care workers,” she said. “We have expertise, we have knowledge, we have skills, we have tools, we have talents, we have abilities, but we can't do that to the best of our ability if we're constantly being bombarded with the kinds of behaviors that we face in our communities.”

lguzman@record-journal.comTwitter: @lguzm_n

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.


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