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Hospital Abuse: The Casualties of Caring

Hospital Abuse: The Casualties of Caring
August 02
11:45 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

We can never truly estimate what a person’s response will be towards intense grief, anxiety, fright or any of the other emotions one may feel when experiencing what they consider to be an emergency. I guess that was why I would sit in my truck for a while before entering the hospital doors – to prepare myself mentally for the inevitable daily emotional clashes. People can be very unpredictable and the best way to test a person’s emotional state is within a clinical setting. The healthcare setting is hands down one of the most stressful environment known to man. It is where people are at their lowest, most vulnerable, weakest – I mean they are sick! But sick people are not the only ones in attendance within that particular setting. It is made up of an entire network: patients, family members and the entire host of medical personnel such as interns, nurses, doctors, security workers, social workers, cleaners, etc.

The emergency room is one of the most dramatic rooms of a hospital. It is viewed in many ways based on your personal experiences. For asthmatics it is a safe zone, and staff are so familiar with some of these patients that as they walk in gasping and grabbing at air the doctor or nurse would spring into action and prepare his or her dose and treatment. Others detest the emergency room because it is where they were called to view the body of a loved one that had passed. For some, the sight of blood and tissue all over the floor, the image of tubes and wires all connected to a bare chest, the beeping of the machines, all could be part of the lasting memory that a person has of the hospital. Even myself as a doctor, have had my fair share of experiences as a grieving loved one, and for me since I am already used to the blood and the noise, my brain rejected the hospital smell. I know right! I detested my place of work! To this day I am irritated whenever I smell the teal Fabuloso! I don’t even know what flavor it is but I can tell the minute I step in to a room, because it takes me back to when my grandmother died. I loved my grandmother dearly and when she died I assisted in the last offices and attending to her body at the morgue. Ever since, the smell would make me nauseous, and when someone used that detergent I would walk out.

What I’m trying to say is we all have a story. We’ve all had a hospital experience that has probably attached to our lives – an emotionally provoking memory. This is normal. What is not normal or acceptable is violent behavior as a direct response to an event.

Violence and abuse within the hospital setting has been increasing worldwide and it is a serious issue that affects the health sector and its performance. In order to be able to work productively, one must first feel as if though they are in a SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT. For years, medical staff has accepted abuse and violence from patients and family members as part of the “job description” and for many years citizens have found yelling insults and getting physical with security and nurses primarily, as acceptable behavior. We often read complaints of people’s own personal interpretation of treatment received from particular institutions on Facebook, telling you not to go there because you will die. (These are based on their personal interaction with probably ONE person from there).

As a result the bashing of an entire institution begins. I often found it interesting how the Health Care setting has scheduled shifts, and I could never fathom the idea of how it was that an interaction from last night’s shift would relay and justify how a person would treat me in the morning – the new shift. BUT, the reality is that the pattern and trend has already been set and breaking an established cycle of years of verbal abuse is one that will be difficult if not impossible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines workplace violence as, “incidents where staff are abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, including commuting to and from work, involving an explicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health. WHO considers both physical and psychological harm, including attacks, verbal abuse, bullying, and both sexual and racial harassment to be workplace violence.” To think that abuse does not occur within the healthcare setting or the hospital, would be ignorant. I am of the belief that there should be particular safe places that a person should feel safe and free. However, it seems that the modern world could care less.

Oh the horrors of the emergency room! I’m sure you’ve heard about the shooting within the hospital compound. Those of you who visit hospitals frequently can attest to the yelling and the cursing at times at the door, the shoving of security and let’s be real…. even before Matron Elijio was regrettably stabbed multiple times by a patient, nurses and staff have been experiencing attacks from angry patients and family members. The sentiments of the disgruntled public, who are fed up with the health care system are evident and felt regularly, but it is important to know that there are channels through which we should vent effectively and properly.

I am of the impression that people are violent to staff members because no one reprimands this behavior. I am often concerned about the mental health of workers who endure these forms of abuse on a regular basis. Sure enough there are specific hospitals and particular shifts with higher incidences, and while the public has means and ways to vent, taking it out on staff and blowing it up on Facebook; a majority of staff members keep their emotional baggage and heavy hearts to themselves.

There is hidden emotional damage to staff members when we allow them to be ill-treated for unjustified causes. Yes, Hospitals and Clinics are places of high stress, emotional distortion and misunderstanding. Change will never happen overnight, and while we understand your dilemma and level of distress, NO stress is enough to justify lashing out on your source of help. We complain about how broken our system is and how staff members ill treat patients. Instead of bashing, take the time to visit with the head of the department. Calmly collect a name and deal with it in the right manner. When we take it out on an entire group, it breaks trust in the system. It causes workers to lose motivation and causes a cascade of ill-treatment and negative attitude in what should be a safe zone, a place you find refuge, a place you know u can count on. Building back trust is hard, but it takes both sides to make it happen. So the next time you feel angered by the actions of ONE person, seek the right channels. Yelling and fighting make no difference. It only creates unnecessary resistance.

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