The last few years have been difficult to say the least. The many changes that came because of COVID and everything that went with it have resulted in frayed nerves, high stress levels and mounting frustrations. Our staff feel it and so do our patients. Even though we have very little control over the many situations that cause some of these stressors, our staff often bear the brunt of people’s frustration and anger, in person and over the phone. We want to promote a good work environment and a place of heal-ing, but abuse destroys that for everyone. It destroys that for staff who are caring for you and for patients who are here to rest and recover. We are appealing to our community for help in ensuring our healthcare facilities are a safe place for our staff, without the fear of aggression, verbal abuse, or violence.
According to the International Association of Healthcare safety and security, “healthcare workers are five times more likely to be a victim of workplace violence than those in other occupations.” The rise in people’s threatening behavior has risen exponentially in the ER as wait times for treatment grow. Staff members are being yelled at, sworn at, threatened, and even assaulted physically. This is not OK. This kind of behavior threatens the trust and the healing partnership we need to have with our patients and their families and causes additional fear and anxiety for the staff, patients and families who hear and see these altercations take place.
Stress is already high when someone presents for care, especially in the emergency department, and people are generally not in a good frame of mind, but currently there is a disproportionate amount of anger sur-rounding delays, safety policies, visitation, and masking. We remind our staff the anger from patients is not really directed at them, but we also need to protect our staff. Work should never include being verbally or physically assaulted. We know that people are frustrated with the situation and are taking it out on the person in charge. We understand the challenges that patients are facing and the frustration that comes with that. However, people need to understand that what is happening here is happening across the state and across the country and most issues are out of the control of our direct care staff.
DECH and CCH CEO, Steve Lail, “We do our best to meet the needs of our patients and we deal the best we can with circumstances that are beyond our control. People yelling, being disruptive, and getting aggressive with our staff cannot be allowed. So, we must ask that people be more tolerant. It is on us as a community to protect our healthcare workers. Staff are people too. They are just doing their jobs. Taking care of you is part of that job, but tolerating abuse is not. To protect and retain our staff and make sure we continue to have staff to take care of our patients, WE, as a community, must change directions and get back on the road to civility. We need to reset the expectations of our community.”
DECH and CCH CNO, John Marshall, RN, “Instances of aggressive behavior from patients and family are being seen across our organization from the emergency department to provider offices to outpatient services and inpatient care. It is often connected to things we can’t fix such as masking, visitor policies and wait times. No one should come to work and be shouted at and sworn at, it’s not acceptable. Every patient deserves respect and courtesy, but so do staff. We have a responsibility to be kind to one another. We know it can be frustrating when you or a loved one is unwell, but we are just trying to do our job and provide the best care.”
Remember, everything that is taking place in our area is taking place across Maine and across the country. And, it is not just healthcare experiencing this, it is felt throughout most organizations throughout the nation. Let’s reset and work together for the health of our community to foster healing environments throughout our organizations and provide a safe space for our staff to provide the best care.