Dec. 21, 2015

ER Violence: Let's Join the Revolution

Once again I find myself on a plane heading home.  As I reflect upon my trip, I feel inspired.  I feel humbled.  I feel loved.  (I also feel a little irritated that the lady who insisted on sitting next to the window now has an eye mask on and is deep in slumber.)  Regardless, the past few days have proven to be good for my soul. 


A few years ago, my friend Kimberley gave me a journal.  I hadn’t had one since I was a kid.  On the cover, it has a picture of wonder woman and inscribed on the first page are words of encouragement.  She wrote many words but the ones that stand out to me the most are, “I am proud of your grace and your strength.  You show us all how it’s done.”  In that journal, I don’t write a daily account of my life but instead I jot down ideas…writing ideas.  I love to write.  It is my outlet for frustration, ideas, and inspiration.  It is my most effective means of communication.  I find it much easier to organize my thoughts while writing.  It is as much a part of me as my nursing career.  It is the one thing in my life that is mine…all mine. I probably would have never started writing in my adult life if it wasn’t for Kimberley. She gave me my “pen and paper” so to speak.  She inspired me.


As most of you know, on Thursday I was given the opportunity to speak at a conference and give an account of a horrific active shooter incident I was involved in while on shift in an ER.  Although it was the first time that I have publicly given an account of those events, it proved to be something that I have needed to do for 15 years.  It was truly cathartic. During my presentation, I laughed when recounting the staff that I worked with during that time.  I also cried.  I cried A LOT.  I cried in front of a group of 100 people that I didn’t know.  I told them how I felt that night and how I feel today regarding the events of that night.  I revealed things I was proud of and things for which I am ashamed.  While standing at that podium with all of those eyes focused on me, I saw a room full of people I didn’t know.  However, what I saw when I looked closer was a room of people just like me.  People who are trapped somewhere between compassion and fear. They were literally sitting on the edge of their seats listening to me for the ENTIRE 90-minute presentation.  I had been through something that they all fear will happen to them.  It was during this time that I realized that I have a job to do.  We ALL have a job to do. 


The California legislators just recently declined a bill that would make it a felony to assault a health care provider.  A resident of California informed me that a person can get in more trouble for kicking a dog in that state than assaulting a nurse.  While I am a huge animal lover, I find myself highly offended by that.  I am there to help you in your darkest hour.  I shouldn’t have to be on red alert for danger while I am at work.   The ENA has been working diligently to make these changes from state to state.  I am embarrassed that I have sat silently on the sidelines while this has been happening.


In Texas, where I reside, our state government recently approved the bill to make it a felony to assault a health care provider.  That’s awesome, right?  Well, it’s a step in the right direction.  If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I was recently punched in the face at work.  I can also tell you that a I was told that although I could file a report, the chances of it actually making it to court were slim because the prosecutor in Dallas County doesn’t have time to take cases in which no true injury occurred… that the patient was on drugs and he technically wasn’t in his “right mind” when he did it.   That’s horrible.  It’s abuse.  Guess what I got to do after that occurred?  I got to continue taking care of that patient.  It’s ridiculous.  He has a RIGHT to receive healthcare but I don’t have a right to a safe work environment.  Isn’t there an OSHA standard to uphold here?


During my presentation, I told my audience that it isn’t enough for us to simply complain.  WE MUST STAND TOGETHER FOR CHANGE.  I realized that because I have not been part of the solution, I have been part of the problem.  I have been inspired.  I encourage each of you reading this to join the Facebook page, ER Nurses: Stop the Violence.  Let’s brainstorm and put this revolution into a call for action.


My friend Kimberley gave me my pen and paper.  Her husband Mark, who invited me to speak, gave me my voice.  I thank them humbly and from the bottom of my heart for believing in me.  If you give me a chance, I promise to speak for all of us in the name of safety…in the name of compassion.  For now, please make a pledge to report work place violence to your administrators every single time it happens… Verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.  It should have never been seen as acceptable.  It should have never been ignored. We are all guilty of letting it slide. Together, let’s show the world that we demand a safe environment.  Together, let’s make that change.