'A constant stream of resignations': Health care workers testify about workplace violence

‘A constant stream of resignations’: Health care workers testify about workplace violence

The legislative task force that studies violence against health care workers heard public testimony on Tuesday for the first time since it convened nearly two months ago.

The 13-member panel heard from several health care workers who said the rising frequency and severity of physical and verbal abuse they encounter at work was “unsustainable” and likely to be the number one reason people leave the profession.

Miranda Chadbourne, a critical care nurse and director of the Workplace Violence Prevention Program at Maine Medical Center in Portland, said she has worked with 2,400 health care workers across the MMC network who have experienced violence.

She said she was also abused by patients and one experience a few years ago was so traumatic that she decided to stay away from bedside nursing.

“We need your help…to make sure none of the care team members leave the profession,” Chadbourne said.

Nancy Judy, director of nursing for emergency and urgent care departments at MMC, said three nurses have resigned from the emergency department, and the “continuous flow of resignations” in her department has continued over the past year.

“Initially when we were losing people, it was precisely because of COVID and older employees who chose to retire,” she said. “The overall reason for resigning in the last year and a half, and accelerating over the past several months has certainly been stress, fatigue, PTSD and anxiety.”

Judy said the story is “always the same” when someone quits: “I was assaulted by a patient…and I simply can’t stand it anymore.”

Healthcare workers who spoke on Tuesday reiterated the frustration expressed by many others in the profession that perpetrators are not being held accountable and that the prosecution process lacks transparency.

“Everything we do is our job to provide care and help others,” said Kelly Smith, a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, in written testimony read by an agent on the committee.

She said she had heard patients say that if they assaulted a worker, they would eventually have the classification lowered or the charges against them dropped.

“The fact that we have to accept the attacker’s charges (have been) dropped sends the message that the proceedings are OK. Nowhere in my job description is it mentioned that it is okay for me to be assaulted,” Smith said.

While co-chair Senator Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, previously said the task force would focus only on offenders whose mental abilities at the time of the incident did not preclude prosecution, the task force again confronted the question of how, if and how mental and psychiatric disorders play a role in this conversation It must be taken into account in criminal proceedings.

The president and CEO of Northern Light Acadia Hospital, an acute psychiatric hospital in Bangor, said a “significant increase in violence” against staff led the hospital to reach out to local police.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement is limited in its ability to respond. Subpoenaing or arresting mentally ill patients who assault hospital staff is not the way forward to resolve this very difficult situation,” Scott Oxley said in his written testimony. “.

“Regardless, we cannot and should not expect mental health care providers to tolerate this kind of abuse,” he said. “It is clear to our behavioral health professionals that Maine needs a new paradigm to safely care for violent individuals who need acute behavioral health services.”

Carly Mahaffey, writing on behalf of members of the Advisory Committee on Intentional Peer Support, said the task force’s focus should be on examining the over-reliance on Maine emergency departments for providing psychiatric care or for housing individuals while waiting for appropriate services and on “how people can be supported.” in the community so they don’t have to go to the emergency department.”

The Advisory Committee on Intentional Peer Support advises the Department of Health and Human Services about the Maine Intentional Peer Support Program, which trains individuals with live experiences to be patient advocates in emergency departments.

Mahafi said the voices of people with live experience in these conversations are “invaluable.”

“It is baffling to us then why the voices of those who would be directly affected by what this task force is recommending Not included in these conversations and meetings,” she wrote. “They can provide a perspective on this non-existent problem, the exclusion of which will create more and more problems in the future, especially for those in the community and for those who work in hospitals.”

The task force only heard testimony from those who joined the meeting in person or virtually, and because the Advisory Committee’s intentional Peer Support Advisory Committee testimony was among the testimony given in writing, it was not acknowledged during Tuesday’s meeting.

The fourth and possibly the last working group meeting will take place in person and remotely at 9 AM on October 13. For more information, visit Website in https://tinyurl.com/49wfjmbv


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