Are nurses to blame for violence?

Nurses are writing to me about the violence they face at work. A nurse from Jefferson said when she went to court after being beat up by a patient, the judge made her feel like it was her fault. A nurse from Einstein wrote saying she considered herself lucky to have only been kicked. A colleague was punched in the face on Monday.  

All these calls follow a story I wrote in Wednesday's Philadelphia Inquirer on workplace violence in healthcare settings. On that same day, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals held a seminar on the topic attended by close to 200 people. I've also been blogging about this as well.

No one deserves to be hit on the job, that seems so obvious. But then I get a call from a reader who, well, I was going to characterize him, but I just won't. You can judge for yourself. He points out trying to get a good night's sleep at a hospital is like spending a night in hell. He points out that patients are pricked, prodded and never given a moment's rest while nurses and other staffers chat loudly in the hall all night long. 

Tell the other side of the story, he urged me. "It would be nice to have a similar article about being abused as a patient in a hospital. Do the nurses deserve the treatment they get?" he said. "You answer it."

This reader, whose name is Bob, has a point, a very minor point. It is true that being in a hospital can be a humiliating experience with poking and prodding continuing all night long. Being helpless doesn't make anyone feel good and resentments build easily, particularly if treatment is less than polite and the staff is overworked and cavalier. And, there are the occasional horrendous stories of abusive staff members in healthcare, particularly those who care for frail elderly.

But that doesn't equal a beating. No way.