MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Nurses are many times the first line of defense at hospitals and in emergency rooms, but they can experience violence and incivility in the workplace.
“She bit me really hard," said Rebecca Huie, president of Alabama State Nurses Association.
This is not an uncommon story to hear from nurses.
“I experienced a patient, you know, kicking me and hitting me that we were trying to restrain," Huie said.
The rate of workplace violence incidents have increased 110 percent in private hospitals between 2005 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a contributing factor to the shortage of nurses in the nation.
In 2006 Alabama made it a felony to attack a nurse, but there is still a gray line at times.
“And you have to consider was that patient of a sound mind," said Huie. “Were they really in their right mind when they came into the ER?”
Nurses from around the state gathered at the 2018 Alabama State Nurses Association Annual Convention Friday. One topic of discussion was combating workplace violence.
The Alabama State Nurses Association wants to educate people on the consequences of attacking a nurse, hoping it is a deterrent. The association encouraged hospitals to put out signs stating it is a felony to attack a nurse or health care worker.
Dr. Terri Poe is the Chief Nursing Officer at University of Alabama at Birmingham and suggested providing education for nurses, technicians and pharmacists on how to deescalate a potentially violent situation.
“The last thing you want to do is have physical force on a patient,” Poe said.
But it’s not just physical abuse nurses are concerned about. There is also incivility or disrespect between coworkers at hospitals.
“Eye rolling, my attitude, or just ignoring you," said Kimberly French, a registered nurse. "Or it can be physical, waving my finger at you.”
French focused her PhD dissertation on incivility in clinical education. She interviewed registered nurses about their experiences with incivility regarding nursing students.
“Disrespectful, unprofessional behavior is incivility. And it’s subtle and repetitive," she said. “I may not even realize I’m being uncivil to you.”
If incivility is not controlled, French said it can progress and lead to bullying.
“So it’s really something that needs to be addressed because patient outcomes are at stake, nursing staffing is at stake," she said.
French said these negative behaviors happen because there is a lot of stress in hospitals.
“Stress was the underlying factor to all of these uncivil situations,” French said.
The things that contribute to stress it was lack of equipment, staffing and lack of support from administrators. French suggested teaching nursing students and staff conflict resolution techniques and how to handle stressful interactions as a way to combat this.
“Just be kind to one another. The golden rule," she said. "Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
The Alabama State Nurses Association adopted a resolution at the conference supporting student resilience training in the nursing classroom.
The association wants to create a task force to develop courses for nursing students. This would teach a zero-tolerance policy on incivility within nursing including bullying and workplace violence.