OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – More than a year after U.S. healthcare workers were hailed for saving lives in the COVID-19 outbreak and celebrated with nightly applause from windows and balconies, some are getting pimples of panic in case of assault and ditching their scrubs before going out in public for fear of being harassed.
Across the country, doctors and nurses on the coronavirus frontlines are facing hostility, threats and violence from patients angry at safety rules designed to prevent the scourge from spreading.
âA year ago we were health heroes and everyone was cheering us on,â said Dr. Stu Coffman, an emergency physician from Dallas. “And now we are harassed and disbelieving and ridiculed in some areas for what we’re trying to do, which is just depressing and frustrating.”
Cox Medical Center Branson in Missouri began giving panic buttons to up to 400 nurses and other employees after assaults per year tripled between 2019 and 2020 to reach 123, a spokeswoman said. A nurse had to have her shoulder x-rayed after a stroke.
Hospital spokeswoman Brandei Clifton said the pandemic was behind at least part of the increase.
âA lot of nurses say, ‘It’s just part of the job,’ Clifton said. âIt’s not part of the job.
Some hospitals have limited the number of public entrances. In Idaho, nurses said they were afraid to go to the grocery store unless they changed their outfit to avoid being accosted by angry residents.
“It’s just added pressure on health workers who have already been under a lot of stress,” said Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where some doctors have received. online threats.
Dr Chris Sampson, an emergency physician in Columbia, Missouri, said violence has always been a problem in the emergency department, but the situation has worsened in recent months. Sampson said he was pushed against a wall and saw nurses kicked.
Dr Ashley Coggins of St. Peter’s Health Regional Medical Center in Helena, MT, said she recently asked a patient if they wanted to get the shot.
âHe said ‘F, no’ and I didn’t ask for more because I personally don’t want to be yelled at,â Coggins said. “You know, it’s a strange time in our world, and the respect that we had for each other, the respect that people had for caregivers, doctors and nurses – it isn’t always there, and that makes this job much more difficult.
Coggins said the patient told him he “wanted to strangle President Biden” for pushing for the vaccination, which prompted her to change the subject. She said security guards are now responsible for enforcing mask rules for hospital visitors so that nurses no longer have to be the ones telling people to leave.
Hostility makes an already stressful job more difficult. Many places suffer from severe staff shortages, in part because nurses have burned out and quit.
“I think one thing we’ve seen and heard from a lot of our employees is that it’s really hard to come to work every day when people are treating each other badly,” said Dr Kencee Graves, medical doctor. at the University of Utah. Salt Lake City hospital.
“If you have to fight someone over wearing a mask, or if you’re not allowed to visit and we have to argue about it, it’s stressful.”