It all happened so quickly. Lauren Berg was washing her hands in the emergency room of a hospital in Baltimore when a patient came up behind her and punched her in the head. When she fell to the ground, the man grabbed her hair and began to slam her forehead into the floor, over and over again. Apparently, he kicked her too, but she did not know this until she woke up in a gurney sometime later.
“I don’t know how the other staff got him off of me,” she explains. “I was told afterwards that he began to assault other staff after me. The hospital never called the police. In fact, after I called the police the charge nurse asked the staff angrily who had called the police.”
Luckily, Lauren’s CAT scan was negative. But she has not been the same since. She sleeps with the lights on at night. She has had repeated flashbacks to the incident. She is seeing a therapist, but with little help from her employer.
“The hospital gave me a list of hundreds of counseling numbers and said that I might want to get counseling. No real referral. There was not even a meeting with staff after the incident to talk about what happened.”
Lauren has been a nurse for 16 years. She is used to being cursed at and threatened, but says that every incident has consequences for the entire staff. “You can’t do your job when you are beaten to a pulp. You can’t give any care if you’re injured. And now the staff is working short. When we work short the patients get even more upset. It’s already unsafe with the proper staff. Imagine working short.”
After the incident, Lauren’s manager told her she could have two weeks off. She ended up needing a month. The swelling from her forehead caused both her eyes to blacken. She was missing a patch of hair from where the patient grabbed her head as he smashed her head into the floor.
Lauren is still a nurse because she loves her job. But she does not feel like there is proper protection for health care workers. Her employer never showed her a workplace violence policy, and if they have one, they never went through it with her.
“Someone is going to end up dead if we don’t come out and talk about this. We need to know that someone has our back. Right now, it doesn’t feel like it.”