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Nurses at UVM Medical Center say they are under attack

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Nurses at UVM Medical Center say they are under attack. They are asking the hospital to do more after reports of abuse in the emergency department.

Nurses in the emergency department say they were verbally and physically assaulted while providing patient care, and enough is enough.

“I’ve had more than one nurse tell me that she was never worried about having COVID on duty, but came to work in fear of being assaulted,” Amanda said. Young, a registered nurse in the emergency department of UVM Medical Center.

On Thursday, Young and other nurses at the hospital expressed concern over an increase in violence on their ward.

“Our staff have suffered strangulations, broken ribs, concussions, bruises, lacerations, permanent hearing loss, broken jaws, broken noses, broken arms, broken cheekbones, bites, assaults sexual. Threats with weapons including knives, hatchet and chainsaw. Verbal threats against our lives and the lives of our loved ones,” Young said.

Nurses say abusers are often repeat offenders under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In a survey of Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals98% of nurses at UVM Medical Center said they had been verbally assaulted and 78% said they had been physically assaulted in the past year.

According to Burlington police, in recent years assaults have increased.

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

So far this year, 10 incidents have been reported.

“You never only take care of your patient, you often take care of the whole family and a member of your community. Although violence has long been part of our job, it has never been acceptable,” said Megan Martin, a registered nurse at UVM Medical Center.

Nurses are asking the hospital for increased security measures, including a working metal detector on the ward, 24/7 security, better outdoor lighting and more.

UVM Medical Center president and chief operating officer Stephen Leffler said they were working to strengthen security, but were encountering roadblocks.

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

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

“Not only is this statewide, but it is a national issue that Vermont is not immune to. I think we have to recognize that. I think we also have to — when we recognize that — how to fix this really intractable problem,” said Mike Del Trecco, interim president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

UVMMC nurses say they are required to undergo training in managing aggressive behavior, as well as training in verbal de-escalation.

Megan Martin says she is quitting her job at the hospital and taking a job elsewhere until action is taken.

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