Members of the Workplace Violence and Abuse Prevention Task Force
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
April 2005 Edition
While others represent the specialties of psychiatric nursing, emergency nursing and community settings such as group homes. Their common goal is to reduce the incidence and frequency of violent events against staff in all healthcare settings and to educate nurses and others about their rights if they are assaulted. Following is an introduction to the Task Force members:
Rosemary O'Brien is the chairperson of the Task Force and became interested in it after learning about the problems her peers were having at work. O'Brien has been a member of the Task Force since its' first meeting in 2000. She has worked on legislative initiatives and has been influential in bringing workplace violence to the attention of legislators and governmental officials, particularly Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating. She believes education and support for members are the most important accomplishments of the Task Force. Currently, O'Brien is interested in developing legislation that would require healthcare facilities to receive information about aggressive and violent patients and share that information with caregivers.
Chris King is the newest member of the Task Force. She joins the group as a nursing intern with the MNA Health and Safety Program. King is interested in workplace violence as it affects residents and workers in long term care settings. She learned of the Task Force's work through a nursing colleague who has been involved for several years. She believes the most important work of Task Force members is as outreach sources for nurses dealing with violence in the workplace.
Susan Vickory is a nurse on acute psychiatry. A few years ago she noticed increasing incidents of assaults on staff. Two of her colleagues wanted to file criminal charges against the patient/perpetrator and were successful with the court system. Then, Vickory saw the Massachusetts Nurse and read about the Task Force. She felt she could learn more about other nurses' experiences and make a contribution if she joined. Vickory developed and presented a paper outlining the process for nurses to follow when filing criminal charges against a perpetrator. She has presented at continuing education programs and orientation in her workplace for new staff based on knowledge gained from working with the Task Force.
Rosemary Connors came to the Task Force after becoming concerned for the safety of patients and staff at her workplace. As a result of her membership on the Task Force, she has been able to address issues of workplace violence and support her peers in the day- to-day realities at work. Connors is appreciative of the approach Task Force members take as they address the many facets and depths of issues violence and abuse presents to nurses and others. She is of the opinion that victims' stories drive the work of the Task Force and that members' response to victims and the subsequent support provided is rewarding.
Mary Bellistri became involved after a nurse who was injured by a patient went to court and was not taken seriously by the clerk magistrate who thought the violence was "part of the job." As a result of her years as a member of the Task Force, Bellistri has become more of an activist. She believes the most important activity of the Task Force is getting the message out that "in healthcare or anywhere, violence is not part of the job."
Harumi Mihara is interested in workplace violence prevention in her work setting. She is also involved in spreading the word about the work of the Task Force to nursing students who visit her from Japan. She brings Japanese nurses and nursing students to Boston to further their studies. They frequently attend Task Force meetings while in the area. One group shared their violence prevention activities through a Power Point presentation, translated for us by Mihara.
Marcia Robertson came to the Task Force upon the suggestion of a member, following a violent event. She believes the emotional support given to injured nurses who are survivors of violence at work by Task Force members is invaluable to their emotional healing. According to Robertson, the Task Force has brought the issue of workplace violence in hospitals out into the open and has kept the focus on the issue to ensure that changes are being made. She would like to see language relative to workplace violence and abuse in collective bargaining contracts for MNA members.
Noreen Hogan joined the Task Force after a co-worker on a child/psych unit was severely injured in a violent incident and was out of work for six months. She had been assaulted herself on several occasions and unsuccessfully tried to convince hospital management and her co-workers to form a coordinated response to these incidents. Hogan eventually left that hospital, due in part to her frustration over the lack of response received on the issue of violence in the workplace from management and colleagues. Another co-worker had read about the Task Force and recommended that Hogan join. Hogan believes the most important work the group and MNA have accomplished is taking a stand through the Workplace Violence and Abuse Prevention Position Statement. The support of nurses injured by violence is also a valuable activity to which members of the Task Force are committed.
Kathy McDonald notes that she became interested in the Task Force because so many staff members on her unit (med/geri/psych) were assaulted by patients, in addition to there being a few incidents of assaults and threats from family members. According to McDonald, "We didn't know our rights, we had trouble sorting out whether it was our fault, we didn't know the law and we didn't know where to look for support. I don't think that our managers and administrators understood how pervasive and upsetting the violence was. We didn't have a mechanism to let staff know which patients were dangerous." Changes have come about on the unit, she said. "Now we use the "precautions" section of the nursing assessment/care plan to flag patients who are assault risks and we note in the care plan what precipitates aggression. How to approach the patient is also noted in the care plan. Our unit is doing a better job of helping staff when we get threatened or assaulted, although we are still underreporting." McDonald has spoken to nurses on other units about the MNA Top Ten list (What a nurse should do following an assault) and ways the Task Force and MNA representatives can be helpful. "My best moment was when one of our per diem nurses told me she had used info from me when a physician at one of her other jobs had tried to intimidate her and she reported him to administration and got a lot of support." McDonald added, "All the Task Force members and staff are a great group of people and a pleasure to work with!"
Kate Opanasets was very closely involved with an event of violence in the ER where she worked. She joined forces with her colleagues and the MNA to file an OSHA complaint related to the incident. As a result, she became frightened and felt traumatized and had to stop working in the ER. Opanasets sought out and found "refuge" in the Task Force. There have been changes in that ER, including placement of a permanent security guard during the night shift. The patient care area is permanently locked and staff uses a security code to enter and to allow visitors and family members to enter. Moreover, patients and visitors in the seclusion room must surrender their belongings. Nursing and security now collaborate to maintain safety. Opanasets believes the Task Force is a resource for nurses; a place to go if threatened or injured by violence. Those nurses who make use of the information provided by the Task Force and its' members soon learn that "nurses here know what you are talking about and that other professionals understand," she said. "I love the fact that it exists."