Nurse’s Stabbing Prompts ED Security Changes

A hospital in Massachusetts unveiled changes last week to the security policies and procedures in place at its emergency department (ED), three months after a nurse there was stabbed 11 times by a patient.

Elise Wilson, 65, was working at Harrington HealthCare System’s Southbridge ED in June when a 24-year-old patient experiencing mental health issues attacked her, MassLive reported, citing local law enforcement. The case, which reflects the threat of workplace violence that healthcare workers face nationwide, prompted the hospital to roll out additional protective measures.

The facility has hired more public safety staff members, installed additional security cameras, and added panic buttons. The ED also has metal detectors at its entrance, conducts searches of people and bags entering the facility, and limits the number of visitors permitted per patient.

“Our priority continues to be creating the safest environment possible for anyone who visits our hospital or any of our medical office buildings,” said Harry Lemieux, a Harrington vice president, in a statement. “We have been working hard to revise our policy to create safe but more flexible visitation, and we think this adjustment accomplishes that need.”

Harrington’s workforce will undergo additional training in de-escalation techniques and defensive tactics, and public safety officers will be armed with batons, foam-based pepper spray, and handcuffs.

“There are very strict guidelines and circumstances under which these tools would be used,” Lemieux said, “and that is being communicated during the training being taken by our Public Safety Department.”

Wilson, who now lacks feeling in her left hand, told the Worcester Telegram late last month that the outpouring of support she’s received since the attack and the additional safety considerations that have since been addressed have brought much-needed attention to the lack of protection nurses have on the job.

“We’ve kind of become the poster child for hospital safety,” she said.