San Diego Health - Spring 2024


Helping Those Who Hurt, Without Being Hurt Ourselves


doctors, nurses and other health care workers. Ongoing clinical training— a standard in health care—is now regularly augmented with training in violence de-escalation, self-defense and the proper completion of police reports. Special wristbands and door emblems help to identify patients who may be violent, and unique codes are called overhead for de- escalation assistance or help from security. Katrina Grossmann, RN, has been an emergency room nurse for 10 years. She worked at multiple hospitals in the U.S. before happily landing at Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, last year. “At every emergency room I’ve worked in, sta ff have experienced some form of violence from a patient or family member on every single shi ft ,” says Grossmann, who recently witnessed a patient grab and physically threaten an emergency worker. “Sometimes it’s verbal and sometimes it’s physical, but it happens daily and it wears on everyone who experiences it.”

FROM HEROES TO VICTIMS During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers were heralded as heroes. Community members showed up at hospitals and clinics with signs, banners, meals and more to show their love and support. But a long pandemic saw tensions rise, and violence against health care workers spiked. Th e numbers are still rising. “Demeaning comments, verbal abuse and assaults now happen in all areas of hospitals and clinics, in addition to ERs, trauma centers and urgent cares,” says Scripps President and CEO Chris Van Gorder, a former police o ffi cer and volunteer reserve assistant sheri ff . “In San Diego and across the country, physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are concerned and frightened. Some are leaving their health care careers entirely rather than face this type of continued threat. “ Th is is a far broader issue than one hospital, one health system or one region,” Van Gorder adds. “As a community, we need to do better.” Van Gorder delivered the same message to San Diego law enforcement leaders last year. It

HE DOCTOR NEVER SAW IT COMING. Andrew Accardi, MD, was making his patient rounds in

the emergency department at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. His next patient sat in a nearby exam room—a 6-foot-5-inch muscular male, brought in by police for treatment, but in restraints. “As I entered the room, I took a quick assessment and, as usual, I asked the patient how he was doing,” says Dr. Accardi. “It was right then that he lunged straight at me from the bed. “It happened in a millisecond, so fast that I fell back as he swiped at me, but he missed,” he adds. “I’d intentionally le ft the door to the room open, so police ran in to catch me. Th ey then quickly wrestled him back onto the bed, but I’d say this was the closest I’ve ever felt to being prey.” Health care has become a dangerous job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73% of non-fatal workplace violence victims in the United States are


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