NEW YORK NURSE: October 2010
by Randi Hoffman
On September 14, nurses from Franklin Hospital on Long Island joined NYSNA staff, elected officials and hospital executives to hold a vigil and talk about solutions to the problem of violence against nurses. The vigil began with a moment of silence for Marie Sweeney, a nurse who recently had been attacked by a psychiatric patient on the job.
“Everyone is upset about the situation,” said Lydie Beauduy, NYSNA’s bargaining unit membership chair at the hospital. “They’re very uncomfortable and hoping and praying that things will get better for her. It could have been any one of us in that situation.”
The Franklin vigil was the second one held in less than a month. On August 25, NYSNA held a vigil at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo for RN Kelly McLean, who was also seriously beaten by a psychiatric patient. The speakers could not help but make comparisons between the two incidents.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that we find ourselves – again – gathering to support an injured colleague. It should not be dangerous to be a nurse,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA’s Economic and General Welfare Program. “We’ve won at the legislative level. As of November, it will be a felony to attack a nurse. Now we need state regulators and hospital administrators to take all necessary steps to make sure nurses and hospital staff can do their jobs safely.”
NYSNA Health and Safety Representative Tom Lowe said, “Every year 430,000 nurses across the United States are assaulted while on duty. A report from the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) indicates that 48 percent of all nonfatal injuries from occupational assaults and violent acts occurred in health care and social service settings, and nurses are the most likely of all healthcare workers to be assaulted.
“It is unacceptable that one more nurse, that one more person, got hurt. Getting hurt should not be part of the job,” Lowe said.
Elected officials who attended the vigil included State Senator Craig Johnson (D– Nassau County), Assembly members Dave McDonough (R, C, I – Nassau County), Joseph Saladino (R – Nassau County) and Rory Lancman (D – Queens).
Franklin hospital administration vowed to make changes to ensure that similar attacks do not recur. Joseph Manapella, the executive director of Franklin Hospital, attended the vigil, spoke to the crowd, and said that the hospital is investigating the incident and working with NYSNA to guarantee a safer working environment.
NYSNA successfully lobbied for a New York State law that makes it a felony to assault a registered or licensed practical nurse while on duty. Governor David Paterson signed it into law on August 14, and it goes into effect in November. This law is a significant step in making sure there are significant consequences to the criminal act of assaulting a nurse. But it is equally important that hospitals have up-to-date, effective safety protocols to prevent violence.
The attack has changed Marie Sweeney’s life, something that she doesn’t want anyone else to ever have to go through. “I’m trying every day to get a little bit better,” said Sweeney, who is facing multiple eye surgeries and a long recovery. “Fortunately, I have a great support system with my family and colleagues. They’ve made a huge difference in the whole matter.”