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Nurse Assault Highlights the Potential Dangers of Patient Care

— April 23, 2024

Healthcare workers have faced increased stress and hostility from patients following the onset of the COVID pandemic.

A recent assault on a nurse at Rockville General Hospital has reignited concerns about the safety of healthcare workers. Kelly Salata, a 56-year-old registered nurse, was allegedly punched in the face by a patient while on duty. The patient’s charges were subsequently upgraded to a felony after he failed to appear in court for his arraignment. Salata’s case is far from an isolated incident.

According to a 2020 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and social assistance workers experience the highest rates of nonfatal workplace violence of any occupational group in the United States. In fact, nurses are four times more likely than other workers to be assaulted on the job.

The factors contributing to this alarming trend are complex. Long working hours, understaffing, and an increase in the number of patients with behavioral health issues have all been cited as contributing factors. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, as healthcare workers have faced increased stress and hostility from patients frustrated by mask mandates and other pandemic protocols.

The nurse assault has prompted calls for action from both healthcare workers and lawmakers. Salata herself has spoken out about the need for improved security measures at hospitals and for greater public awareness of the dangers healthcare professionals face.

In Salata’s case, she nearly blacked out and suffered a concussion when she was punched in the face by the patient, Michael Lee, 43, at the hospital on April 2. She still has headaches, hears a steady tone in her head, and has not been back to work.

Nurse Assault Highlights the Potential Dangers of Patient Care
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

On the day of the attack, Lee was given a misdemeanor summons, charging him with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace, according to reports. The prosecutor has now upgraded the assault charge to assault of public safety, emergency medical public transit, or health care personnel, a class C felony.

In response to the growing problem of violence against healthcare workers, some hospitals have begun implementing new safety measures. These measures include increased security patrols, the use of panic buttons, and de-escalation training for staff.

Lawmakers have also introduced legislation aimed at addressing the issue. In some states, laws have been passed that make it a crime to assault a healthcare worker. These laws typically carry harsher penalties than those for assault on a non-healthcare worker.

While these measures are a step in the right direction, some experts argue that more needs to be done to protect healthcare workers. They point to the need for additional funding for security measures, as well as for a cultural shift that treats violence against healthcare workers as a serious crime.

The assault on Kelly Salata is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by healthcare workers every day. It is a problem that healthcare workers say demands immediate attention from both healthcare providers and policymakers. Only through a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of violence and implements effective safety measures can healthcare workers perform their vital jobs without fear of assault.

The nurse assault is just one example of the many challenges faced by healthcare workers today. It is important to remember that these are the people who are on the front lines of caring for our sick and injured.

As Salata notes, they deserve respect and support. The law should not allow a case where “violence is part of your job description,” Salata said in a recent interview.


CT nurse who police say was assaulted by patient says health care workers remain a ‘punching bag’

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

Workplace violence in healthcare settings: The risk factors, implications and collaborative preventive measures

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