Omaha, Neb. Scrubs before going out in public for fear of harassment.
Across the country, doctors and nurses are dealing with hostility, threats and violence from patients angry at safety rules designed to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
“A year ago, we were healthcare heroes and everyone is applauding us,” said Dr. Stu Kaufman, an emergency room physician in Dallas. “And now in some areas we get harassed, disbelief, and ridiculed for what we’re trying to do, and it’s frustrating and frustrating.”
A spokeswoman said Cox Medical Center Branson in Missouri began giving panic buttons to up to 400 nurses and other staff after assaults tripled annually between 2019 and 2020 to 123. One nurse had to have an X-ray of her shoulder after she was attacked, a spokeswoman said. .
Hospital spokeswoman Brandi Clifton said the pandemic prompted at least some of the increase.
“A lot of nurses say, ‘It’s just part of the job,'” Clifton said. “It’s not part of the job.”
Some hospitals have limited the number of public entrances. In Idaho, nurses said they were afraid to go to the grocery store unless they changed clothes so they wouldn’t be met by angry residents.
Hospital spokeswoman Caiti Bobbitt said doctors and nurses at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, have been accused of killing patients by grieving family members who don’t believe COVID-19 is real. Others have been the subject of harmful rumors spread by people angry about the pandemic.
“Our health care staff feel like Vietnam veterans, afraid to go into the community after the shift,” Bobbitt said.
Over Labor Day weekend in Colorado, a bystander threw an unidentified liquid at a nurse working at a mobile vaccine clinic in a Denver suburb. He ran over another person in a pickup truck and destroyed signs around the clinic tent.
About 3 in 10 nurses who participated in a survey this month by an umbrella organization of nurse unions across the United States reported an increase in violence as they work due to factors including staff shortages and fewer restrictions on visitors. That was up from 2 in 10 in March, according to a National Nurses United survey of 5,000 nurses.
Patients come in scared, sometimes from many in the same family, often close to death, said Michelle Jones, a nurse in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Wichita, Kansas. Their relatives are angry, thinking that nurses and doctors are letting them die.
“They are crying and screaming and sitting outside our intensive care unit in small groups and praying,” Jones said. Many people believe that they will get miracles and that God will not miss them this year. If you come to my ICU, there is a good chance you will die.”
And the powerful stimulants that have shown promise, she said, often make patients even more irritated.
“It’s like ‘benign anger at people,'” she said. ‘I’ve worked in healthcare for 26 years. And I saw something like this. I’ve never seen the public act like this before.”
Across the United States, the COVID-19 crisis has caused this to happen They behave badly towards each other in many ways.
Several people have been shot dead in disputes over masks in stores and other public places. Screaming matches and quarrels broke out at school board meetings. A brawl erupted earlier this month at a New York City restaurant over his demand that customers show proof of vaccination.
Dr. Chris Sampson, an emergency room physician in Columbia, Missouri, said violence has always been an issue in the emergency department, but the situation has only gotten worse in recent months. Sampson said he pushed against a wall and watched the nurses kick.
Dr. Ashley Coggins of St. Peter’s Health Regional Medical Center in Helena, Montana, said she recently asked a patient if they wanted to be vaccinated.
“He said, ‘No,’ and I didn’t ask more because I personally didn’t want to yell at me,” Coggins said. And the nurses — it’s not always there, and that makes that way of working harder.”
Coggins said the patient told her he “wanted to strangle President Biden” for his push for vaccinations, which prompted her to change the subject. She said security guards are now responsible for enforcing mask rules on hospital visitors so that nurses no longer have to be the ones asking people to leave.
Hostility makes an already stressful task even more difficult. Many places are experiencing severe staff shortages, in part due to nurses’ fatigue and resignations.
“I think one of the things we’ve seen and heard from many of our employees is that it’s really hard to come to work every day when people are treating each other badly,” said Dr. Kinsey Graves, a physician at the University of Utah. Hospital in Salt Lake City.
“If you have to fight with someone about wearing a mask, or if you’re not allowed to visit and we have to argue about that, it’s exhausting.”
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