Workers Speak Out

“Management tells me ‘avoid him, he works here, too’”

Stephanie W., Office Technician

State Mental Health Hospital, Norwalk, California, 7.25.14

A co-worker at my job wanted personal information about another co-worker. I refused to provide it. As a consequence, he waited until the end of my shift and followed me to my car, blocked it in, and refused to let me leave. I reported it and nothing was done.  (more…)

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Healthcare Workers’ Stories Make a Difference

On March 26, 2000, Diane Schrader, RN, was brutally attacked on the job. At the time, she worked at Stony Brook Hospital, SUNY, in upstate New York and was a member of SEIU’s sister union, the Public Employees Federation (PEF), which represents New York State workers.

Faced with ongoing workplace violence on the job, PEF members joined with other public sector unions and health and safety advocates to fight for legislation that would put workplace violence prevention mechanisms in place for state workers.  (more…)

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“I told management and nothing was done”

Michelle M., Supervising Staff Nurse

Rehabilitation Center, Downey, California, 5.6.14

I started my nursing career as an RN when I was 23 years old. I worked on an adolescent unit. Most of the patients I cared for were only 2-5 years younger than me. One particular patient – an 18 year-old gang member with a spinal injury – took a liking to me. (more…)

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“She was extremely traumatized”

Laura Mae A., Registered Nurse

City and County of San Francisco, California, 5.6.14

I work in a public health clinic. In June 2012, I heard yelling and a coworker calling for someone to call for the institutional police (who we shared with the adjacent building). I ran to where the sound was coming from and found a patient near the front door and a registered nurse at the side of a health worker who was holding a yellow sign that our porters use to alert people of wet floors. She was holding it to maintain space between her and the patient who was cursing her out and trying to grab the sign. (more…)

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“I had to risk my own life to pull him back into the room”

Aaron C., Registered Nurse

Public Hospital, San Francisco, California, 5.6.14

As a nurse in the Cardiac ICU at a public hospital in San Francisco, I continually treat acutely ill patients with comorbidity and underlying psychiatric disorders.

One day, working with a man recovering from respiratory failure, I encountered a very scary situation. After waking my patient from three days of sedation and removing his breathing tube, he became increasingly paranoid.

Unknown to me, he had a history of paranoid schizophrenia, mostly untreated from his life living on the streets. Becoming increasingly agitated and paranoid, the 6 ft. 350 lb. man ripped out his IVs, climbed out of bed, and tried to leave the room. Yelling and screaming at me as I tried to get him back into bed, he grabbed a supply cart and tried to smash me into the wall with it. (more…)

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“I was told, ‘he will not harm you, it will be okay'”

Vanessa S., Registered Nurse

State Psychiatric Hospital, San Bernardino, California, 5.6.14

I have worked at this facility for 17 years. I have been spat on more than once, kicked in the ribs, and pulled on, which caused me to have surgery on my knee.

I was threatened for weeks by a patient who said he was going to kill me once he was released out of restraints. I had nightmares that when I walked into the unit he would walk up behind me and choke me to death. (more…)

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“People still blame the victim and healthcare workers blame themselves”

Sasha C., Registered Nurse

Public Hospital, San Francisco, California, 5.6.14

We all live in a hypocritical society that claims to value peace while engaged in the longest war in U.S. history. Violence is entertainment with video games and movie posters that feature actors pointing guns while posing sexily.

That there is nothing sexy about violence is best seen by looking at the consequences of this violence in hospitals. (more…)

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“Something must be done to help us”

Jeannie K., Registered Nurse

Private Hospital, Pomona, California, 3.20.14

One day, a patient where I work was declared brain dead and her family became very agitated, yelling, hitting the walls, and threatening the staff. As the family became more and more upset, I felt that my safety and the safety of the family who was visiting a patient in the next room were in danger. The facility is located in a high crime neighborhood; it has no metal detectors; the ICU does not have locking doors. As we called security, I took the visitors into another room to get them out of the way of the irate family because I didn’t know to what extent their threats would escalate. When our security staff arrived, he said, “I am tired of babysitting you nurses!” At that time we called the local police, who came and intervened, took the family members away, and restored peace to the unit.

This is just one incident. I have felt afraid for my safety and the safety of my patients on many occasions. Wherever the violence comes from, something must be done to help us.

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“We need our employers to put safeguards in place”

Elsa M., Registered Nurse

State Prison, San Quentin, California, 3.20.14

I was working with another Registered Nurse in Treatment and Triage. There were two beds in the area and the custody officers were approximately 100 feet away. A patient who had complained of chest pains needed my attention for most of the morning because he required a detailed assessment. That meant that the nurse working with me had to attend to the other patients who came in. She became upset when I asked her about whether X-rays had been ordered for one of the patients she had seen. She responded with accusatory statements to the effect that I had done nothing all morning and she was fed up working with me. Suddenly, out of her pocket, she grabbed the set of solid brass security keys and threw them at me. They crashed into the wall behind me and bounced off so hard that they ricocheted onto an empty stainless steel instrument table. The tray then bounced off its frame and crashed to floor. The custody officers asked what was going on. My co-worker walked out quickly, belittling me on her way out. Another nurse had just walked in behind me and had witnessed the entire incident. She, too, left quickly to avoid being questioned. Immediately afterwards, my supervisor told me that he “didn’t want any problems,” and instructed me to keep quiet and continue working with the nurse who had thrown the keys at me. (more…)

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“I’ve experienced – and witnessed – many, many incidents”

Dennis K., Respiratory Therapist

Retired, 3.20.14

In my 40 years as a respiratory therapist, I’ve experienced – and witnessed – many, many incidents of both verbal abuse and physical assaults. There are a couple of incidents I’d like to share:

The hospital where I worked at the time was located in an area that had a lot of gang activity. It wasn’t unusual to see between 3-15 gang-related shooting victims a night. On one particular night, there was a gang member who had been shot in the arm. It was a superficial wound. After he had been treated, he was taken back out to the Emergency Room waiting room. As he was being taken out, members of the rival gang arrived and when they saw him, they not only attacked him, but also the nurse who was attending him. She was hospitalized from the beating she received. (more…)

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