Nursing Notes

October 14, 2011

More Friday Videos

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 5:03 am
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Once again, it’s video time. Watch these videos about nursing school, tips for surviving nursing school, and finally what kind of salary you can expect as a nurse. These are all worthwhile videos I hope you enjoy.

September 28, 2011

Nurses and Pandemic Outbreaks

The bombed remains of automobiles with the bom...

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This will be a different type of post than I usually do.  I don’t have a specific article to post and editorialize today.  Instead, I want to talk about a movie.  I went to see Contagion the other day and, although it is a good movie, there were two different scenes in the movie that really made me upset.  Now, you would figure that a movie about a disease that kills 20% of the Earth’s population would be enough to make me angry, but that wasn’t what did it.

During this movie, there are two separate scenes where nurses are trashed.  You don’t see nurses tending to any of the sick because, “They have all gone on strike because there are no protocols for dealing with this.”

You see doctors tending patients, you see nuns tending patients, you see scientists tending patients.  It seems that everybody wants to be a nurse except the nurses–in this movie.

I was so incensed after the movie that I went right home and Googled for hours and hours to find facts and information about the role of nurses in pandemic outbreaks, about the role of nurses in capturing information regarding pandemics, about the dilemma of nurses during pandemics.

What I found was this.  First, check the Code of Ethics with the state board of nursing.  It seems that nurses have a responsibility to educate, to collect data, to identify problem areas, and to meet any National Health Objectives set forth.

Nurses encounter personal risk when providing care for those with known or unknown communicable or infectious disease.  However, disasters and communicable disease outbreaks call for extraordinary effort from all health personnel, including registered nurses.

So, why then did this movie portray nurses as being unwilling to provide care?  That is really the question isn’t it?  Twice they made a point of saying that there were no nurses to provide care to the sick because the nurses would not come to work (they were on strike).

I don’t know about you, but this was very distressing to me personally and professionally.  I don’t know of any nurse who would purposefully ignore a sick or dying patient.  Nurses frequently are first responders in disasters and in accidents along our nations highways.

I lived in OKC at the time of the bombing.  I know what the nurses working downtown did.  I know first hand how they all as a group responded.  Not one nurse said, “I can’t help because there is no protocol for dealing with this disaster.”  Nurses were there helping the injured, collecting body parts, combing the ruins of the Murrah building for survivors.

Let me know what you think about this, if you can.  I am very upset still and I wanted to get some feedback from other nurses out in the world.

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September 7, 2011

Disruptive behavior, negligence, endangered patients, and millions of dollars

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Here’s an article from the Patient Safety Monitor that makes my skin crawl.  Patient safety and well-being are tantamount to nurses.  Have we, as nurses, given up the role of patient advocate?  This article cites several recent court decisions against medical facilities for failed patient safety observances.  Where were the nurses in this?

Staffing is always the core problem in these types of problems.  Hospitals expect nurses to do more and more and more without giving the proper staff to accomplish this goal.  As long as hospitals continue to get away with short-staffing, they will because they are a business.  The bottom line is profit, even in non-profit facilities.

Think about it like this:  is it less expensive to pay a fine every so often that does not amount to the cost of maintaining proper staff to patient ratios?  Why pay every day for more staff, at a cost that is very high, when you can pay much less in fines and then only if you get caught.

I know that I do not speak for the majority of the nursing profession.  I can only speak for myself, based on my own experiences in hospitals.  I love nursing.  I love being a nurse.  I don’t love the way hospitals staff.

Please read this article and leave me a comment, won’t you?  When you visit the site, look around because you will find many interesting articles about nursing and hospitals there.  Be sure to leave them a comment on this post while you are there.


August had been filled with a number of different patient safety rulings and findings that show poor patient safety can be costly in many different ways.

Let’s start with Boston, where two old cases have been settled.

First, parents of a newborn who died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston seven years ago were awarded $7 million by the Suffolk County Superior Court after a physician and nurse practitioner were found negligent in their care. The parents claimed they did not react quickly enough to the infant’s deteriorating condition. The premature infant developed necrotizing entercolitis, something caregivers should have been watching for as it is common in infants delivered prematurely.

The parents alleged they came to visit their daughter and found her discolored and unresponsive, and said staff took more than an hour to respond.

In another recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court verdict against Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving alleged disruptive behavior exhibited by Arthur Day, MD, the former head of neurosurgery. Sagun Tuli, MD, claims the hospital retaliated against her for complaining about her work environment.

The court ruled that Tuli was defamed and that her career was affected.

Now, on to Dallas.

It was recently reported that in March, 2010, Parkland Medical Memorial Hospital in Dallas, TX, informed 73 female patients that instruments that were not properly sterilized had been used on them, putting them and any sexual partners at risk of infections.

Following that incident, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) investigated the hospital in July, 2011. The investigation led to the finding that the hospital created an “immediate and serious threat to patient health and safety.” The report found that ED patients in severe pain were given maps of the hospital to find the appropriate place for treatment and children sent home without screenings.

Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, Parkland Memorial Hospital, along with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, agreed to pay $1.4 million after a four-year Medicare billing fraud investigation revealed that resident surgeons were not properly supervised and also failed to comply with informed consent requirements.

Another Dallas hospital, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, was also recently cited for 10 violations by CMS, some which include failing to screen and stabilize emergency department (ED) patients and understaffing the ED.

Do these more recent findings indicate that CMS is getting tougher? Would similar findings be found elsewhere, if investigated? Is this the sign of the times of healthcare reform? What do you think? Share thoughts below.

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July 21, 2011

Inglis: West Texas story has sleaze, drama – sadly, it’s real

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 11:31 am
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Here is another article by Toni Inglis about the Winkler County nurses and the whistleblower case that rocked the nation.  She is a wonderful writer and I love that I can share here another chapter of this story as seen by Toni.  Enjoy.  This is from the Austin American Statesman here in Austin.


We’ve seen the beginning of the 
Winkler County whistle-blowing nurses movie so many times, but it still doesn’t have an ending.

It has an all-star cast. Winkler County nurses Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle; town doctor Rolando G. Arafiles Jr.; hospital administrator Stan Wiley; former Winkler County Sheriff Robert L. Roberts; Winkler County Attorney Scott M. Tidwell; Attorney General Greg Abbott; state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; and state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.

A good setting: A dusty, isolated West Texas town, Kermit in Winkler County. Thick good-ol’-boy culture. Squat courthouse. Twenty-five bed community hospital.

Plot: It’s 2007, and the small town is desperate for a doctor. Arafiles rides into town. He’s an affable guy hired despite the red flag of a stipulation on his Texas medical license. The town sheriff quickly befriends the doctor, and they become golfing buddies.

According to published reports, the doctor’s colleagues become increasingly uncomfortable with his standards of practice. The doctor sells a dubious nutrition supplement called Zrii to his patients as a sideline, following up with emails. They question his examining and billing for genitalia exams of people coming to the ER with maladies such as sore throats and headaches.

By 2009, the doctor’s fellow practitioners have had enough. They report him to the Texas Medical Board. Two who anonymously report him were the no-nonsense hospital quality assurance nurses, Mitchell and Galle, who between them had 46 years of experience at the hospital and immense respect.

When notified of the report, the doctor becomes outraged and enlists his buddy the sheriff to find out who made the report. The sheriff obtains confidential information from the medical board through fraudulent means, and the reports are traced down to the two nurses. The hospital administrator, Wiley, instantly fires the nurses.

The story gets really weird here. What transpired next is something that has not happened in any state. In a stunning display of prosecutorial might, the nurses are indicted on felony charges of misuse of official information. If convicted, they face a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. The case makes national headlines.

The two nurses and their families wait nearly a year for their trial. They have lost their jobs and incomes. Galle retires early. Mitchell, who is 15 years shy of retirement age, finds another county job, but not as a nurse. She takes a $35,000 annual pay cut, just as her son enters college.

The criminal charges against Galle are dropped, but Mitchell endures a four-day trail before the jury acquits her after less than hour of deliberations. Once again, the case makes national headlines.

After Mitchell’s acquittal, Abbott opens an investigation into the case. In January, the doctor, sheriff, county attorney and hospital administrator are indicted on charge of retaliation against the nurses.

Roberts, the former sheriff, and Tidwell, the county attorney, each face six counts — two counts each of misuse of official information and retaliation (third-degree felonies) and official oppression (class A misdemeanor).

Wiley, the hospital administrator who hired Arafiles and fired the nurses, is indicted on two charges of retaliation. In March, he pleads guilty to abuse of official capacity for his role in the firing of the two nurses and promises to cooperate with the prosecution.

Last week, after a seven-day criminal trial and less than two hours deliberation, a Midland County jury convicted Roberts on all charges. He was sentenced — and unable to appeal — to four years of felony probation, $6,000 in fines and 100 days behind the bars of the same jail he ran for 20 years. He will be removed from office and must surrender his peace officer’s license. He will also retire from the county — with full benefits. Wiley testified during Roberts’ trial.

Two defendants await trial: Tidwell and the doctor. Arafiles continues his $200,000 job at the hospital even after the indictments. His contract is not renewed, and he is now practices in Grand Saline. If convicted of a felony, he will lose his medical license.

Despite the legal vindication, the nurses have lost their careers, half of their incomes and their quality of life.

The case prompted legislative action to protect nurses from criminal prosecution for patient advocacy. Howard and Nelson co-sponsored successful legislation to keep this nightmare from happening again. The governor should sign this bill.

Oh, if only this were all a movie script and not real life.

Inglis is an editor and a neonatal intensive care nurse with the Seton Family of Hospitals.

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July 8, 2011

Rep. Schakowsky Introduces Bill to Improve Patient Care & Curtail Nurse Shortage

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 3:39 pm
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Here is an article from FierceHealthCare that I found about the government’s attempt to get nurses some protection and encourage nurses back into the profession.  On the one hand, I applaud the actual attempt to set some minimal staffing ratios for hospitals and nursing homes.

Nurses across the board are overworked and overwhelmed.  Nurses are leaving this profession in large numbers due to burnout, stress, fear of  being sued, fear of making a critical mistake and causing harm.  Nurses want to be able to help patients heal.  Period.

On the other hand, this article doesn’t really state what the actual bill would identify as a minimal staffing ratio.  Asking the administration of said hospitals to meet with staff nurses to determine minimum staffing is a joke.  That’s like telling the fox to guard the hen house.

Hospitals have to make a profit to stay in business, whether they are for-profit or not.  Nurse staffing is the singe largest expense that any hospital has after equipment.  There is no way that the hospital administrators will staff according to the nurses working for them.

Anyway, read this article and then let me know what you think, won’t you?


WASHINGTON, DC (June 15, 2011) – Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) today introduced legislation to address increasing hospital mortality rates and preventable medical errors caused by nurse understaffing. The Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2011 would establish a federal minimum standard in all hospitals for direct care registered nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.   The bill would greatly improve patient care while helping to restrict the nursing shortage that has left hospitals across the country dangerously understaffed.

“Nurses are overworked and hospitals are understaffed, leading to disastrous results for patients everywhere,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky.  “By creating a workplace in which nurses are asked to do the impossible, we drive nurses away and jeopardize the quality of patient care. The bill is a common-sense solution to improve the quality of patient care and address the nursing crisis in our hospitals.”

The Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2011 would require that hospitals work with their direct care nurses to develop safe staffing plans that meet but can exceed  minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.  The legislation would provide whistleblower protection and give nurses the ability to speak out for enforcement of safe staffing standards.

The bill would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to consider staffing requirements for licensed practical nurses and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to recommend any changes in additional reimbursement needed due to the requirements of the bill.

A recent study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 17, 2011), found that  “when the nursing workload is high, nurses’ surveillance of patients is impaired, and the risk of adverse events increases.”  Other studies found that understaffing was a factor in one out of every four unexpected hospital deaths or injuries caused by errors and result in higher incidences of cardiac arrest, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and complications

The legislation is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, Country and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Nurses United, the American Federation of Government Employees, the United Steelworkers, and the American Federation of Teachers.

Read more: Rep. Schakowsky Introduces Bill to Improve Patient Care & Curtail Nurse Shortage – FierceHealthcare


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May 30, 2011

Memorial Day is for remembering the sacrifices–

Let us remember the nurses who gave up their lives for their patients during the various wars we have fought in.

Let us remember the nurses who are currently in harms way to give aid to our men and women fighting in the Middle East.

This holiday is for remembering.  To see more about our nursing veterans click here.  Below are just a very few of these wonderful women to be remembered.



U.S. Army

Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham, Chief Nurse at 91st Evacuation Hospital, Tuy Hoa.

Colonel Graham, from Efland, NC, suffered a stroke in August 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. A veteran of both World War II and Korea, she was 52.

To Colonel Graham’s memorial on The Virtual Wall

First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane

1LT Sharon Lane

Lieutenant Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Vietnam, was dedicated in her honor. In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.

To Lieutenant Lane’s memorial on The Virtual Wall


Second Lieutenant Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba
Second Lieutenant Elizabeth Ann Jones

1LT Elizabeth Jones

Lieutenant Drazba and Lieutenant Jones were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. They died in a helicopter crash near Saigon, February 18, 1966. Drazba was from Dunmore, PA., Jones from Allendale, SC. Both were 22 years old.

Lieutenant Jones is pictured here.

To Lieutenant Jones’s memorial page on The Virtual Wall

To Lieutenant Drazba’s memorial page on The Virtual Wall


Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander

CPT Eleanor Alexander

Captain Alexander of Westwood, NJ and Lieutenant Orlowski of Detroit, MI died November 30, 1967. Alexander, stationed at the 85th Evacuation Hospital and Orlowski, stationed at the 67th Evacuation Hospital, in Qui Nhon, had been sent to a hospital in Pleiku to help out during a push. With them when their plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon were two other nurses, Jerome E. Olmstead of Clintonville, WI and Kenneth R. Shoemaker, Jr. of Owensboro, KY. Alexander was 27, Orlowski 23. Both were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars.

To Captain Alexander’s memorial on The Virtual Wall


First Lieutenant Hedwig Diane Orlowski

1LT Hedwig Diane Orlowski

Captain Alexander of Westwood, NJ and Lieutenant Orlowski of Detroit, MI died November 30, 1967. Alexander, stationed at the 85th Evacuation Hospital and Orlowski, stationed at the 67th Evacuation Hospital, in Qui Nhon, had been sent to a hospital in Pleiku to help out during a push. With them when their plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon were two other nurses, Jerome E. Olmstead of Clintonville, WI and Kenneth R. Shoemaker, Jr. of Owensboro, KY. Alexander was 27, Orlowski 23. Both were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars.

To LT “Heddi” Orlowski’s memorial on The Virtual Wall


Second Lieutenant Pamela Dorothy Donovan

1LT Pamela Donovan

Lieutenant Donovan, from Allston, MA, became seriously ill and died on July 8, 1968. She was assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon. She was 26 years old.

To Lieutenant Donovan’s memorial on The Virtual Wall



U.S. Air Force

Captain Mary Therese Klinker

Captain Klinker, a flight nurse assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This is known as the Operation Babylift crash. There are also US Air Force and Air Force Association web pages about Operation Babylift. From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.


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May 13, 2011

Happy Nurses Appreciation Week!

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 4:38 pm
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April 9, 2011

Prevent Readmissions With Discharge Planning

With The Joint Commission looking at “revolving door” admissions, it is time for everyone to get on board and start working to prevent readmissions.  Being readmitted benefits no one.  The patient feels like their health has become unmanageable and they are frightened.  The family becomes convinced that they cannot handle the needs of the patient safely.  The hospital, once a safe haven, becomes a scary place.

We have to work “better” not harder at discharge planning.  We need to be looking at the patients’ needs and desires as much as possible.  Just getting patients out of the hospital is no longer acceptable.

The article below is long, but well worth your time.  Only part of it is below, so please do click over to finish reading.  This is from one of my favorite sites, Health Leaders Media, where you will find many other great articles dealing with various issues in today’s nursing.


Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , April 5, 2011


Discharge planning is a process that should begin as soon as patients are admitted to the hospital. In a perfect world, healthcare team members, patients, and families communicate and work together to move patients quickly and safely to home or the next level of care.

In reality, discharge planning can be fractious. Older adult patients and their families face many choices about where to go and often disagree on the best course of care. Communication among caregivers can be far from ideal and communication between patients and families can be fraught with disagreements.

As hospitals battle readmission rates, more attention is being paid to discharge planning. Lori Popejoy, Phd, APRN, GCNS-BC, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri, has been studying the discharge planning process around older adults and recommends hospitals pay more attention to the decision-making process with these patients.

Popejoy, who has years of experience with care of the older adult before entering academia, recently published a study, “Complexity of Family Caregiving and Discharge Planning,” in the Journal of Family Nursing. I spoke to her about the problems nurses face as they work with older adults and their families, the challenges faced by healthcare providers as they discharge older adults from the hospital, and the healthcare transitions faced by elderly people and their families following hospitalizations.

Popejoy says that our understanding of discharge planning and how patients make decisions is quite simplistic. We usually think about conversations between physicians and their patients or between physicians and families. In reality, dozens of people are involved in any decision. So she examined interactions between healthcare team members, including nurses and social workers, and older adult patients and their families. She wanted to understand how these diverse stakeholders come together to make a single decision about leaving the hospital and where they are going to go. She wanted to understand how much participation in decisions patients and families want the healthcare team to have and what actually happens as decisions unfold.


“Every participant comes to the situation with their own values, their own beliefs, and what they want to get out of it,” says Popejoy. “What stands out for nurses or social workers is their overall concern for patient safety. Their input into the decision making process is to find the most reasonable choice and the safest choice.”

For older patients, most just want to go home. Some recognized they were too weak and were willing to go somewhere else, but for them, it was to be a short-term stay where they could get stronger and then ultimately go home.

For families, safety is important, but also the issue of ‘I want my parent to be able to live the life they want to live,’ says Popejoy. “For a spouse, it’s a whole different ball game—they just want their spouse to go home with them.”

Within child-parent relationships, some want their parents to live with them; others recognize that their lives are too complicated to handle a parent at home who is functionally unable to care for themselves. Some can handle a short-term stay, but not one for the long term.

Popejoy says that hospitals need to figure out who the key players are who can influence decisions. “Listen to older adults and find out what they want, but also listen to the family and what they can do,” she says.

She cautions decision makers are often not available during Monday to Friday business hours. Although most organizations know this, it can be difficult to get good information across the week, not just during traditional work days. Discharge planning and communication may have to be done via conference calls or during off hours.

Another important thing that leaves healthcare teams in difficult positions is the idea of autonomy.


“In the United States, we value autonomy and your independence above all…[read more]

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March 18, 2011

Fun Friday Video

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Let’s have just a little humor today, okay?  This video is funny but true.  Let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do.


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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