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ONA Success Story: Peace Harbor Hospital

Violent Patient Turns Night Shift Into Nightmare

Nurses’ Voices Finally Heard, Employer Plans Uniformed Security

In May, 2016, night shift nurses experienced a nightmare on a particularly hectic night. A patient became violent, pried open the ambulance bay doors, entered the ED and threatened other patients. He proceeded to roam the halls unescorted, with ED personnel helplessly monitoring the cameras and hoping none of their coworkers or patients would be harmed before help arrived. At one point, a nurse positioned himself between the aggressor and a young child who was being treated in the ED. Law enforcement officers were not immediately available; the local police took a half hour to arrive to control the aggressor.

For several years at Peace Harbor Medical Center (PHH), nurses have been advocating for visible uniformed security on night shift at least. During the day, our maintenance crew doubles as security (when they are available). At night, patients and employees have little to no protection. Some hospital staffers in isolated departments or buildings work solo. Furthermore, our community has seen a dramatic increase in drug use and a rise in the number of people with behavioral health issues in recent months. However, it took this sentinel event last month for the employer to finally wake up.

After that night, nurses united to voice their concerns about the security of their patients and their coworkers. They spoke to each other and their managers. We also reached out to nurses at other Peace Health facilities, who contributed information about their security situations. Six of the eight Peace Health facilities we surveyed had uniformed security guards (see table on page 1). We also collected data from nurses at other rural Oregon hospitals and discovered that eight of the 12 rural facilities surveyedhad uniformed security guards (see table below).

Clearly, uniformed security guards are the industry standard for rural Oregon facilities and is also the norm at other Peace Health hospitals. With this information in hand, nurses requested a group meeting to express their security concerns to the CEO. Our basic question to him was: why is Peace Harbor failing to meet the standard of care provided at other hospitals?

On May 26, five RNs met with Peace Harbor administrators to learn about the employer’s plans to improve security at our hospital. Unit Reps Sandy Fleetwood (Short Stay) and Amy Borchard (ICU) joined in support of three ED nurses, Christine Erickson, Chip Scott and Toby Knight-Meigs. The RNs politely and determinedly inquired about immediate and long-term plans to provide a safe and secure facility for our patients and workers.

At the meeting, CEO Rick Yecny informed the nurses that the administration identified discretionary funds in the 2016 –2017 budget to finance a six-figure contract that would provide 10-hour-a-night, seven-day-a-week uniformed security coverage. Local administrators were awaiting final approval from the regional director, but were confident it would be approved. Once approved, we could expect to see uniformed security within 90 days.

The nurses asked, meanwhile what do you propose to do to protect our patients? At the suggestion of an ONA rep, Peace Health’s regional security director agreed to contact local police and tribal law enforcement officials. He will open up a dialogue with them regarding response times and regular patrols.

In response to nurses’ inquiries, local administrators will accelerate de-escalation training of ED staff and make uniformed security a permanent part of the security plan and annual budget. Since we work in the trenches every day, nurses can identify problems, advocate for solutions, and drive organizational change when we unite together.

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