Nurses turned out in force Thursday in Los Angeles to hear officials discuss proposals for tough new rules aimed at preventing hospital violence, just two weeks after one of their own was shot at a local California hospital.
California’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health is working to develop the new rules, which many think could have prevented the shooting of a nurse at a mental health clinic at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South LA two weeks ago as well as other attacks across the state.
Nurses said the work is more dangerous than many people realize.
Rose Carcamo said she's been struck "many times" by patients. She said she's been spit on, slapped and kicked.
"How can they keep a drunk from hitting you? You know, you can't. We try to do the best we can," she said.
The nurses, and others represented by various health care unions around the California, are hoping Cal-OSHA can formulate a stricter policy, and want employers, including major hospitals, to protect them.
The nurse in the most recent incident was shot in the leg during a struggle with a patient. Other nurses said a metal detector might have prevented the man from bringing in a gun.
Last spring, two other nurses were seriously injured within hours of each other - one was stabbed at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar and the other was stabbed in the ear with a pencil at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.
Both survived, but Cal-OSHA officials on-hand Thursday to discuss proposed tightened security in hospitals heard similarly disturbing accounts from dozens of other health care workers.
"There's three gang members standing right behind me while I'm working on their gang leader," said Scott Byington, a registered nurse.
Byington and others said the health care workers are basically sitting ducks when police officers are not around.
"Our security is not armed. We have no metal detectors. Nothing like that at our hospital," he said.
If approved, the proposal would be the first of its kind in the country, and healthcare workers said it needs to happen.
"So I'm holding a three month old baby and the man comes in and tries to attack me and lunge at me," said Rosa Carcamo, a registered nurse, outside of Thursday’s meeting, which was a first look at the proposed plans.
According to Cal-OSHA, nearly 5,000 incidents of workplace violence in healthcare settings were reported in California between 2010 and 2012. Many go unreported.