Bill Pigford moved to Prince George’s County eleven years ago to work at a hospital in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He is a clerk specialist. Although there is a perception that workplace violence in healthcare only affects caregivers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies those workers who exchange money with the public at risk of workplace violence as well. Bill can attest to this.
Bill has seen a patient drag a computer off of a desk in rage, he is cursed at and threatened almost daily, and has seen his coworkers receive welts from the patients they were trying to care for. In one case in particular, Bill saw a physician’s assistant get punched so hard that it knocked him out. At another point, someone fired a gun in front of the hospital. Every day there is a “code green,” code for a violent patient.
These incidents have had lasting effects on Bill. “I am constantly looking over my shoulder. Sometimes I have to stop my work and back away from my desk because I don’t know how patients are going to react.”
Bill understands that many patients and families can be stressed when they come to the hospital. “They feel like the system is not there for them. They feel as if all they have is their anger. Long wait times create anger and anxiety. By the time the patient gets to see a health care worker, their anger is already boiling.”
The answer, as Bill sees it, is for facilities to create workplace violence policies that everyone must follow.
“It’s hard to save lives when you are trying to save your own,” Bill explains. The dangers of working in the health care environment has gotten to point where Bill can barely take it. “When I get up in the morning, I hate to go to work.”
Bill is not one to shy away from a difficult task and knows a little something about violence prevention. Before moving to Prince George’s County he counseled youth on violence in Mississippi as part of a program called, Youth Challenge. He carries that experience with him as he goes into work every day.
“How long must we wait? How much must we endure? The time to stop the violence is now.”