‘It’s getting much worse.’ Charlotte hospitals see spike in staff assaults

Nurses, security guards and other hospital staff are being assaulted by patients.
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte’s two largest hospitals say they are seeing a spike in the number of assaults reported on staff.

WBTV started investigating the issue after getting multiple calls to the tip line from hospital staffers who say they continue to be concerned about the increased violence in their workplace.

Records from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department show a total of 45 assaults reported on staff at Atrium’s Carolinas Medical Center and Novant’s Presbyterian Hospital in a six-month period between September 2021 and March 2022; with 21 assaults being reported at CMC Main and 24 assaults reported at Novant Presbyterian in that time.

This remarkable group of people have endured a lot of hardship for two plus years.

Many of the assaults were reported to police by security staff. Others, though, were reported by nurses and other workers in the emergency room.

One such incident was reported by an employee at CMC Main on October 22, 2021, when she reported being struck in the face by a psychiatric patient who was being held on an involuntary commitment.

Dennis Taylor, immediate past president of the N.C. Nurses Association, said he’s been subjected to violence like that during his decades working in emergency medicine, first in Charlotte and now in Winston-Salem.

“I think it’s always been a problem for a long time, but it is growing,” Taylor said. “It’s getting much worse.”

Taylor said his organization is working to increase training for nurses focused on helping them de-escalate situations and better manage patients who could turn violent.

A big reason for the spike in assaults, he said, is the increase in the number of psychiatric patients being held in emergency rooms waiting for a mental health bed to open up.

WBTV previously investigated the lack of mental health beds in North Carolina and South Carolina.

A spokeswoman for Novant provided the following statement in response to a request for comment for this story:

“Novant Health has a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence, and we continue to do everything we can to ensure a safe and healing environment for our teams, patients and visitors. That said, we know that workplace violence in healthcare is a significant issue nationally, and we are certainly not immune as we have experienced random and unprovoked actions of violence within our facilities. At Novant Health, we have strong systems in place to prevent and respond to verbal and physical abuse of our team members, including a robust workplace violence committee dedicated to implementing best industry practices in education, prevention and response to acts of violence on our campuses.”

A spokesman for Atrium sent the following statement:

“Incidences of workplace violence in health care settings have increased around the country. Unfortunately, far too often, members of the medical community are subject to physical and verbal abuse by patients and visitors. Assaulting a health care worker is a felony and we cannot and do not tolerate attacks on our teammates.”

“Atrium Health has a ‘Zero Harm – For All’ initiative, which sets our goal at zero instances of harm to our teammates, patients and visitors. We have many safety precautions in place, including panic buttons, personal alarms, metal detectors in high-risk areas, 24/7 hotlines and armed security officers. We conduct investigations of all incidents, including reports of verbal abuse, in order to continually improve the safety of our teammates, patients and visitors. Speaking up about safety concerns is an expectation we share with all our teammates and is a key tool for identifying opportunities for improvement.”

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