Nursing Notes

December 18, 2010

Nothing says ‘thank you’ like a tush grab or two: Man says he was trying to show gratitude but faces assault charge for groping nurse twice

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 8:48 pm
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I found this article and read it.  I thought about it and then I reread it.  On the face it seems like a lot of noise about a minor (?) thing.  We all know there are those patients and patient’s family members that we would rather avoid.  But, on rereading, I had to let go of those preconceived thoughts that I believe had been planted in my psyche by society.  I substituted “teacher” for “nurse”  and parent for “patient” and came away with quite another viewpoint.

I think it is unfortunate that we live in a male-dominated society, but that’s the fact.  What I wonder about, though, is who is raising these men?  Where are the mothers who should be teaching these boys how to be “men” and how to treat women?  Where are the fathers who should be role models for these boys?  Our society, as publicized by the media, is simply a reflection of what we have allowed ourselves to become.  Violence is on the rise.  Everywhere.  But that still does not make it right to victimize someone who is trying to help you.

Here is the article.  Please read it and let me know what you think.  I am always interested in other people’s opinions and differing points of view.  The original posting was on the MSNBC website, but was reposted on The Truth About Nursing, which is where I found it.  Leave them a note if you feel inclined.  It is a good site that has lots of information about nursing and the media.


You’re a nurse, right?

butt grab nurseDecember 2, 2010 — Today MSNBC ran a short “weird news” item about a common event:  sexual abuse based at least partly on patients’ assumption that it’s OK if the victim is a nurse. Teresa Masterson’s piece tells the story of Joseph Wolf of Allentown, PA, a man who reportedly claimed that the reason he twice grabbed an emergency room nurse’s buttocks was to say “thank you” for her care. Of course, this is a creative justification for abuse, but countless nurses have been “thanked” this way throughout their careers. What makes this story more notable is what Wolf apparently told the nurse after grabbing her: “Well, you’re a nurse, right?” In other words, it’s part of your job to provide sexual services, or at least to endure sexual abuse. Where would people get the idea that nurses are sex toys? Could it be the media, at least to some extent? You know–the same media the produces The Dr. Oz Show, which just last month included a segment featuring naughty “nurses” dancing with Oz as an “attempt at humor” in a segment about losing weight? When a prominent physician like Oz doesn’t get it–even his “apology” suggested that he thought the nurses who objected were just too sensitive–what chance does the average patient have to understand these issues? It’s as hard to imagine Oz dancing with women in naughty physician or lawyer outfits as it is to imagine a person following up a sexual assault with, “well, you’re a physician,” or “well, you’re a lawyer.” We thank MSNBC and other news outlets for reporting on this incident. But we saw no hint in these stories that most nurses experience this kind of abuse, or that not enough is done to address the abuse, to say nothing of the stereotypes that underlie it.

The MSNBC piece was headlined, “Nothing says ‘thank you’ like a tush grab or two.” It explains that the 53-year-old Wolf was at Allentown’s Sacred Heart Hospital late the preceding Sunday night, in the “waiting room demanding to be treated because he said he’d been assaulted.”

Police say Wolf repeatedly demanded pain medication while using vulgar language, and when the nurse told him no medication was ordered, he twice grabbed the nurse’s buttocks and said,

“Well, you’re a nurse, right,” reports the [Allentown] Morning Call.

When police arrived a little after 11 p.m., Wolf told them he didn’t think his conduct was inappropriate because “in Europe, they kiss.”

Wolf also reportedly claimed that grabbing the nurse “was just his way of saying ‘thank you’ for her service.” Neither the nurse nor the police agreed, and it seems pretty unlikely that a person who is using profanity and is unhappy at being denied medication would be in the mood to thank anyone. Wolf was later admitted to the hospital for the earlier assault he apparently suffered, but he is now “facing indecent assault charges” and “being held on $8,500 bail.”

It’s no secret that nurses are often assaulted, and that these assaults often have a sexual component. In October 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that a Utah man had allegedly grabbed the breast of a hospital nurse he found “cute.” The man was at the hospital for the impending birth of his child. Police said that the nurse he assaulted was wheeling his child’s mother to the delivery room. The man was arrested, so he missed the birth.

A 2009 study found that 56% of Japanese hospital nurses had been sexually harassed at some point in their careers. In a December 2005 study, University of Missouri communications professor Debbie Dougherty found that more than 70 percent of the nurses she surveyed in four U.S. states had been sexually harassed by patients. In March 2006, Dougherty told a writer for the Monster website that she was “surprised” at the aggression the nurses faced: “Patients threatened to attack nurses sexually and called them prostitutes.” And a 2002 NurseWeek study found that 19 percent of nurses had been sexually harassed in the previous year.

Sexual abuse has a negative impact on patient care, as a December 2005 Associated Press item about Dougherty’s study noted. A nurse traumatized by abuse cannot provide her best care, and the abuse contributes to nurse burnout and turnover, as well as nurses leaving the bedside completely.

Abused nurses often do not receive adequate support from their employers. Some seem to view sexual abuse as part of the nurses’ job. In February 2009, the New York Daily News reported that a Queens jury had awarded a nurse $15 million after Flushing Hospital had allegedly allowed a physician to sexually abuse her and other nurses for years, even though hospital officials were aware of the physician’s history of misconduct. The physician finally lost his admitting privileges after two 2001 incidents, including one in which he had allegedly chased the nurse through the halls, cornered her, and “aggressively groped her below the waist.” We are pleased that the hospital and the police in Allentown appear to have taken this assault as the serious event it was, however comical the patient’s explanations for his conduct may have been.

But what may be less commonly understood, and what does not seem appear in any reporting on these events, is the role that social attitudes about nurses play in such abuse. Of course these assaults are multicausal; not everyone who sees nurses as sex objects assaults them. Nor is this about any objection to sexual imagery in general. Naughty nurse imagery matters because nurses face a perfect storm of dangerous people and negative stereotyping about their workplace role. It seems clear that decades of relentless naughty nurse imagery in the media play a role in the attitudes of some, or else people would not make comments like Wolf reportedly made. When a person is altered–perhaps by drugs, mental health issues, pain, fear for his health, or stress from some other incident–and that person lashes out, it is natural he would choose a target society has told him is a disposable sex object, a woman of low status whose job it is to be sexually available and to accept abuse without complaint. After all, they are nurses, right? Naughty nurse imagery makes real nurses more attractive targets for people who are looking for targets.

Or even just an innovative way to say “thanks.”


See Teresa Masterson’s article “Nothing says ‘thank you’ like a tush grab or two: Man says he was trying to show gratitude but faces assault charge for groping nurse twice,” posted December 2, 2010, on the MSNBC web site.

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December 16, 2010

Medical Care in Pennsylvania: Nurse to Patient Ratios

The Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.
Image via Wikipedia

This is a short article I found on the Pennsylvania Law Monitor published by Stark and Stark Attorneys at Law.  I read it, twice.  I find that a 10 to 13% reduction in mortality rates is not something to be ignored.

Today, I watched the news about the side-drop baby crib problem where it was stated that the design of these beds had led to several (less than 100) deaths and now these beds are forbidden to be sold.  But a reduction of 10-13% mortality in hospitals is not okay?  Where is the sense of this?  Where is the public outcry. I understand that my example may be weak–after all we are talking about baby safety–but what about all the senseless deaths that are occurring daily because nurses cannot do the jobs they were trained to do.

When did it become okay for nurses to be the janitors, the transporters, the phlebotimists, the nurse’s aide, and the legal department?  Most nurses just want to be able to nurse patients.

Let me know what you think, won’t you?  This article was found here.


Pennsylvania Law Monitor

Posted at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2010 by Mary M. Labaree

In The Works
In Pennsylvania, House Bill 147 was introduced in January 2009 and remains “in committee.”  A similar version was sponsored in the PA Senate.  Among other provisions, they establish RN – to -patient ratios in the Commonwealth. Specifically, the legislation would establish the following minimums:

  • 1 nurse:1 patient – PR and trauma emergency units;
  • 1 nurse: 2 patients – Critical care, including emergency critical care and all ICUs, labor and delivery units, and post-anethesia units;
  • 1 nurse: 3 patients – Ante partum, emergency room, pediatrics, step-down and telemetry;
  • 1 nurse: 4 patients – intermediate care nursery and medical/surgical and acute care psychiatric units;
  • 1 nurse: 5 patients – rehab units;
  • 1 nurse: 6 patients – postpartum and well-baby nursing units

Why Should You Care?
Nurse-patient ratios can have a significant impact on patient outcome. A research study published in 2010 in the journal Heath Services Research, entitled “Implications of the California Staffing Mandate for Other States” by Linda Aiken, and others, compared 2006 data from three states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California in terms of patient mortality and failure-to-rescue based on the nurse:patient variable.  California has long required a minimum ratio of nurses to patients. Pennsylvania’s bill  is still “in the works”.

The research found that nurses in California were assigned, on average, about one fewer patient each when compared to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  This may not appear significant on the surface but, in fact, the ratio of nurses to patients correlated negatively with patient mortality.  In other words, the higher the ratio of nurses to patients, the lower patient mortality.  Even more disturbingly, in the med-surg areas, the difference in number of patients cared for was even greater for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The researchers extrapolated the findings to ascertain whether changes in staffing for the two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, would materially impact mortality rates.  They predicted a reduction in mortality rates by 10.6 and 13.9 percent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey respectively.

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December 2, 2010

Oncology nurse Theresa Brown, on promoting a patient-centered culture

Here is a blog post from by Theresa Brown.  I love to read her thoughts about nursing, so I felt you might enjoy this post, too.  She always has her finger on the center of a significant issue in nursing and she freely discusses cause and solutions.  I find her work to be well balanced and timely.


Theresa Brown, BSN/RN/OCN, is a  floor nurse in Pittsburgh and author of “Critical Care: A New Nu rse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between.” SmartBrief editor Kathryn Doherty recently spoke with her about the challenges of communication — with physicians, patients and other hospital departments — facing nurses today and how these challenges affec t patient safety. A condensed version of that conversation follows.

How does the nature of the nurse-physician relationship affect communication between these professionals? Does it affect patient safety?

The hierarchical nature of the nurse-physician relationship often impedes good communication. Nurses are looking out for physicians to be arrogant and dismissive, and physicians can be unfairly impatient with nurses. These kinds of interactions are more likely when people are under stress — and almost everyone working in a hospital is under stress.

The problem begins with our training. In nursing school, I received no training in how to work with physicians, and my sense is that physicians get no training in how to communicate with nurses. Yet, each group completely depends on the other to take care of patients. A half-day or daylong workshop, where nurses and physicians work together to learn how to communicate better, could do wonders.

Safety issues are what make the communication between nurses and physicians so important. A physician who dismisses a nurse’s concern for a patient may be ignoring an important sign that the patient is in crisis. A nurse who fails to bring an important detail to the attention of a physician because talking to MDs makes her uncomfortable is also not giving her patient the best care possible. Simple medication errors could be avoided if the nurse’s question was heard not as a criticism of the doctor’s skill, but as a striving for clarification.

Bedside nurses are considered the closest link to patients. How does this proximity affect nurse-patient communication and overall patient safety in a hospital?

Nurses are the “canaries in the coal mine.” The nurse sees the patient for the entire day or night, and will often be the one who first notices when the patient is having a serious problem. Whatever is affecting the patient that day — physically or emotionally — will be impossible to hide from the nurse.

That proximity can also create friction, if the patient treats the nurse as waitress, maid, counselor or punching bag. Patients who  make unreasonable demands on nurses (and we’ve all had these patients) may not realize that they’re distracting their nurse from paying attention to their health.

What changes in hospital culture could be made to improve patient safety?

A lot of the problems in hospitals would solve themselves if people had time to listen to each other, and then do what needed to be done. My feeling at work is that everyone has a little more to do than can be done in the time available — and sometimes a lot more. If we could slow down, we could keep patients safer.

And one thing that would help nurses slow down would be staffing ratios and well-stocked float pools that could fill gaps when nurses were unable to come to work. “Working short” benefits neither nurses nor doctors, and certainly not patients.

Hospital departments can be very separated, physically and ideologically. How could that situation be improved?

An “Us versus Them” mentality has become endemic in many hospitals, and it makes communication very difficult. Medical people don’t like surgical staff, ICUs don’t like floor nurses, certain nurses don’t like certain physicians, etc.

What I find myself saying over and over again is, “We all have the same goal.” Most people who work in hospitals have a deep commitment to being helpful, or at least started their careers with that feeling. If we could reawaken that feeling in people, make them remember why they got into this crazy work environment in the first place, it might help.

The goal of everyone in the hospital should be to give all patients the best care possible. and institutions need to really commit to that goal, rather than giving it lip service while really focusing on profits.  Staff who don’t appreciate that goal may need retraining or reassignment. The nurses and physicians I like the most and respect the most all share the same professional mantra: “It’s all about the patient.”

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