Violence in the Emergency Room

The nurse became the patient.

The attack happened in a blur of flailing fists, with staff reacting like bouncers to a brawl.

Agitated about waiting hours to be seen by a doctor, the patient had paced and launched verbal threats while at the University of Kansas Health System in mid-November.

Emergency room nurse Jessica Fultz said that she’d tried to reassure the woman, explaining that staff was stretched and wait times were long as doctors were treating people suffering with COVID-19.

The explanation seemed to rile the patient more, Fultz said, because the woman countered with something to the effect of, “So, you’re telling me that I’m not sick?”

Shortly after, the patient charged, slamming a closed fist to the nurse’s lip. Fultz was sent sprawling, her head banging on a bed frame as she fell to the floor.

Two nurses and an emergency room technician were able to pry the woman off of Fultz. They kept her restrained until police arrived.

Fultz remembers curling into a fetal position. She’d later be diagnosed with a concussion.

It’s not an isolated incident, according to those who work in emergency rooms.

“We need people to understand what we are facing,” said Mike Hastings, the 2020 president of the Emergency Nurses Association. “We need the community to rise up and say, ‘this is not acceptable.’ “

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