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Almost 200 healthcare workers in the Midlands assaulted by patients last year

According to the American Nurses Association one in four nurses are assaulted, with as few as 20% of those incidents are reported.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — According to those on the frontlines, attacks and abuse towards healthcare workers are up in South Carolina. 

The Palmetto state is one of only three states with no penalties for violence towards healthcare workers.

According to the American Nurses Association one in four nurses are assaulted, with as few as 20% of those incidents are reported.

Dr. Kelly Bouthillet a nurse practitioner and the President of the South Carolina Nurses Association says she experienced verbal abuse during the pandemic while explaining to a patient the terms of quarantine.

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“Its hard when people get mad at you, and scream at you, just say ugly things because they don’t like what the situation is," said Dr. Bouthillet.

She went on to say, “The fact that we are seeing an uptick in some violence, verbal and physical violence against nurses, because of the pandemic, just puts another added layer of stress.”

“We don’t want to argue with people, we don’t want to worry about someone being so upset that they might threaten us.”

According to Prisma Health there were 187 incidents involving a healthcare worker in 2021, while in 2020 there was 173. In 2019 there was 179. The hospital says they encourage staff to report violence, that being one of the reasons numbers are up.

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Prisma Health, Lucy Easler, Director of Behavioral Health says the violence frontline workers experience can stem from verbal all the way up to physical assaults.

“Verbal aggression, harsh words, threats, to to outright violence. Where folks are punched, kicked, scratched and bitten," said Easler.

Dr. Nadine Brooks, Chief Nursing Administrator/Program Director/Nursing at Columbia College, says training for confrontation is key.

“Nursing is really about taking care of their patients at their worst,"  said Dr. Brooks.

She went on to say, “A lot of times things spiral out of control because of a lack of communication.”

Those on the frontlines say they acknowledge a loved ones worry, as hospital visitations and restrictions continue to be implemented, “It’s a double edge sword, its very scary being in the hospital and not having that support system.”

Yet the frustration felt by the patient, their families and the frontline worker, is just another layer of stress our careers are battling.

Columbia Police Department say they were called out to two aggravated assaults and five simple assaults at Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge last year.

MUSC reporting their numbers of violence towards frontline workers is down. Reporting 140 incidents in 2019, 77 in 2020 and 77 in 2021.

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