Family Member Attacks ICU Nurse at Louisiana Hospital

02 Feb, 2022 Liz Carey


Gretna, LA ( – Officials say the family member of a patient in a Louisiana hospital hit an ICU nurse while they were on-duty. 

According to Captain Jason Rivarde, commander of the Public Affairs Division of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO), officers were called to the Ochsner Medical Center – West Bank Campus in Gretna around 11 p.m. on Jan. 27 for a report that a nurse had been attacked by a man who was visiting a patient. When they arrived, they found the nurse “had been knocked unconscious and injured” and the suspect missing. 

Officials with Ochsner Health said the nurse is recovering and is expected to be okay. JPSO officials said they are still looking for the suspect. 

“There is nothing more important to us than the safety and security of our employees and our patients. Workplace violence in any form – physical, verbal, non-verbal or emotional – is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate this behavior,” Warner Thomas, president & CEO of Ochsner Health said in a statement. “Workplace violence against healthcare workers has been escalating throughout the pandemic and has reached a point that legislation needs to be considered to make this violence a felony. This consideration under review by a Louisiana task force comes as U.S. hospitals grapple with an increase in disruptive or violent incidents in hospitals — many involving hostile visitors – adding further stress to the healthcare workplace.” 

The hospital said it had dispatched more security officers and a police detail across the health system and would be providing counseling services and additional support to its employees. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, violence-related injury to health care workers has increased by 67 percent, from 6.4 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2011 to 10.7 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2018. Additionally, the bureau said, health care workers and social service workers experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence and are 5 times as likely to be injured in a violent workplace incident that workers overall. Violent workplace incidents in the healthcare and social service fields make up 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work. 

In the past year, violence against healthcare workers seems to have increased. A guide published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCR) said that despite expressions of public support for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were “alarming incidents of health workers being stigmatized, ostracized, harassed or threatened for allegedly spreading the virus.” And the World Health Organization has said in addition to violent attacks, healthcare workers have reported being spat on, called derisive names, and having personal property vandalized. 

In 2021, Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri gave panic buttons to nearly 400 nurses and other employees after assaults against health care workers there tripled to 123, including one incident that resulted in a nurse having to get her shoulder X-rayed. 

In an article in the Journal of American Medical Association last year, experts said violence against health care workers. 

Terry Kowalenko, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said that addressing the problem is as complex. 

The first step, Kowalenko said, is ensuring that healthcare workers report violent incidents so researchers can compile data to see where, when and what is actually happening in the healthcare workplace. 

“Reviewing data collected is the best way to learn what went wrong and what we can do to avoid it going forward, Judith E. Arnetz, PhD, MPH, professor and associate chair for research in the family medicine department at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, told JAMA. 

In her research at the Detroit Medical Center, they found most incidents took place after 8 p.m. Enforcing visiting hour limits immediately reduces not only the number of incidents, but also the severity of the assaults. 

Adhering to facility policies and procedures can also reduce incidents, Kowalenko said. 

“If one nurse lets in 5 visitors and another just 2, the inconsistency can escalate people,” he said. 

Healthcare personnel should also see medical equipment as potential weapons, said Jimmy Choi, MD, an emergency physician and martial arts trainer in San Francisco-based My Occupational Defense. Wheeled intravenous (IV) poles, oxygen tanks, scissors, scalpels and IV needles should be kept out of easy reach of patients and visitors whenever possible, he said. 

Additionally, healthcare staff should be trained in how to identify and deescalate potentially violent situations, as well as physical self-defense and how to subdue violent patients, Choi said. 

For healthcare facilities looking to develop a violence prevention and mitigation program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations for limiting COVID-19 related violence and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidelines on violence prevention specifically for health care workers.


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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