UVM Medical Center nurses say they’re under attack

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:08 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 7:43 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - UVM Medical Center nurses say they’re under attack. They’re calling on the hospital to do more after reports of violence in the emergency department.

Nurses in the emergency department say they’ve been assaulted both verbally and physically while providing care to patients, and enough is enough.

“I’ve had more than one nurse tell me that they’ve never been worried about getting COVID on duty, but come to work scared that they’ll be assaulted,” said Amanda Young, a registered nurse in the emergency department at the UVM Medical Center.

On Thursday, Young and other nurses from the hospital expressed concern over a rise in violence in their department.

“Our staff have endured strangulation, broken ribs, concussions, contusions, lacerations, permanent hearing loss, jaw fractures, broken noses, broken arms, broken cheekbones, bites, sexual assaults. Threats with weapons including knives, a hatchet and a chainsaw. Verbal threats to our lives, and threats to our loved ones’ lives,” Young said.

The nurses say aggressors are oftentimes repeat offenders under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In a poll from the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, 98% of nurses at the UVM Medical Center reported being verbally assaulted, and 78% said they’ve been physically assaulted in the last year.

According to Burlington Police, in the last several years, assault incidents have increased.

In 2018, the department reports 17 incidents, and in 2019 there were 15 incidents. But in 2020 and 2021 those numbers increased to 20 in 2020 and 32 in 2021.

So far this year there have been 10 incidents reported.

“You’re never just caring for your patient, you’re often caring for the whole family and a member of your own community. Although violence has long been a part of our job, it’s never been OK,” said Megan Martin, a registered nurse at the UVM Medical Center.

Nurses are calling on the hospital for increases to security measures, including a working metal detector in the department, 24/7 security, better lighting outside and more.

UVM Medical Center President and COO Stephen Leffler says they’re working on tightening security but they are running into roadblocks.

“We are concerned about this; we are doing everything in our power to make it better. If I had the staff, we’d have the magnomoter running now. If we had all the security that we needed, we’d have presence down there. If we could hire an outside police force, we would have done it,” Leffler said.

According to the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, this issue extends beyond the walls of the UVM Medical Center.

“Not only is it statewide, it is a nationwide problem that Vermont is not immune to. I think we need to recognize that. I think we need to also-- when we recognize that-- how do we solve this really an intractable problem,” said Mike Del Trecco, the interim president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Nurses at UVMMC say they are required to take training in dealing with aggressive behavior, as well as verbal de-escalation training.

Megan Martin says she’s leaving her position at the hospital and taking a job elsewhere until action is taken.

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