Nurses rally for better help with violence on their job

Nurses have to stop being martyrs and demand their co-workers, employers and law enforcement do more to protect them from violence on their jobs, speakers said at a rally Friday in St. Charles.

Show Me Your Stethoscope, a health care workers' advocacy group, chose to gather at the Kane County Judicial Center because of outrage its members still feel about the May 13 event at nearby Delnor Hospital, when a Kane County jail inmate held a nurse hostage for several hours. He beat and raped her, according to her attorney, before he was killed by authorities.

Nurses involved in his care that week have said, in a federal lawsuit, that they repeatedly complained to hospital security and to sheriff's officials that corrections officers were leaving the inmate unshackled, even after nurses brought it to their attention. They also contend he was watched by one guard at a time, and that the guards often were seen using their computers, tablets or cellphones.

More than 100 people attended the rally, which was co-sponsored by the Illinois Nurses Association.

"Nobody went to work and thought they were going to be a hostage that day," said Pam Robbins, an instructor in the nurse practitioner program at Millikin University in Decatur.

Robbins, past chairman of the Illinois legislative committee for the American Nurses Association, said the violence comes not just from arrestees or inmates, but also from frustrated patients, mentally ill patients and others. She advocates requiring hospitals to have improved protocols and training in place for dealing with incidents of violence, much like they have for dealing with tornadoes, fires or other emergencies.

Angela Simpson of Maryland was so infuriated by the Delnor case she founded the group Silent No More. It, too, is advocating for tougher penalties for people who attack health care workers.

"I'm done with this. Something in me snapped. Enough is enough," she said.

Especially maddening, she said, was hearing officials initially say no one was seriously injured during the standoff.

Simpson called for laws that would protect nurses who report an attack to police from retaliation from employers. Many nurses, she said, feel like the blame for an incident is shifted to them, especially by questions on incident reports that ask them what they could have done to de-escalate or prevent incidents.

The rally was put on by Show Me Your Stethoscope, an international group that has more than 675,000 followers on Facebook, and the Illinois Nurses Association.

Three state legislators, a candidate for county sheriff and a candidate for state representative also spoke.

Asked for a response to the rally, Christopher King, media relations director for Northwestern Medicine, which owns Delnor Hospital, said, "Northwestern Medicine is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for staff and patients. We have implemented new procedures for staff safety and will continue to review procedures for caring for patients that may become violent. We commend efforts to raise awareness about workplace safety."

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said cases of assaults on medical workers are weighed, case by case, on their own merits.

"When we have adequate evidence and a cooperating witness, we proceed with the appropriate charges. No one should be afraid when they go to work," he said.

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  Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis addresses the crowd during a rally about health care worker safety Friday at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles. Brian Hill/
  Lori Christopher of Chicago applauds during a rally Friday at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles. A group called Show Me Your Stethoscope led the charge to bring attention to the issue of safety of medical personnel. Brian Hill/
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