Colorado ER staff facing growing hostility despite felony punishment

A rise in workplace violence is leading Colorado nurses to quit, The Denver Post reported Oct. 16. 

Becker's has reported on violence against healthcare workers nationwide, which more than doubled between 2011 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical leaders have urged Congress to pass a bill criminalizing violence toward hospital workers, though it has stalled in the House. 

In Colorado, a 2015 law made it a felony to assault emergency medical workers, according to the newspaper. 

However, Amanda Miller, emergency department nurse manager at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, told the Post the law is doing little to deter violence. Recently, two nurses quit because of violence, and another needs several months of physical therapy in the wake of an incident. 

Support for healthcare workers has fizzled since the pandemic's start, and a distrust of physicians and nurses has led to an increase in violence, Ms. Miller told the newspaper. Additionally, short staffing has lengthened emergency departments' wait times, frustrating patients and families and making some more prone to lash out. 

Employees at UC Health Poudre Valley are trained to identify agitated patients and family members and de-escalate tensions, Ms. Miller said. But emergency departments by law cannot turn patients away, and a federal law could provide funding to upgrade their training and infrastructure, protecting against violence.  

"We don't have bulletproof vests. We have a stethoscope and scrubs," Ms. Miller told the Post.

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