The recent death of a Filipina nurse detailed to a California jail has raised concerns over the “disturbing trend of violence" faced by medical care professionals in potentially violent workplaces. On Oct. 28, registered nurse Cynthia Palomata, 55, succumbed to the head injuries she sustained after she was attacked by an inmate at the Martinez county jail, where she had been assigned since 2005. A report by the Asian Journal, a US-based news website for the Filipino community, identified the suspect as Aaron Nygaard, in jail for burglary. According to the report, Nygaard faked a seizure attack to get out of the waiting room, then, without provocation, he hit Palomata on the head with a table lamp. The nurse was brought to John Muir Medical Center, where she underwent surgery for swelling in the brain due to blood clot. On Oct. 28, however, Palomata was taken off life support and declared dead. The suspect will be charged with murder, the report said. Palomata, a native of Nabas town in Aklan, had been working for the Contra Costa Health Services in California for over 20 years. She left behind a husband and a grown son. "The suddenness of the incident left us, her family, in shock. She was unaware that when she left home that day, she would never see her family again. We miss her terribly," Palomata’s brother Cyril Barraca Jr. was quoted as saying in the Asian Journal report. Dr. William Walker, director of Contra Costa Health Services, said in a statement that they will continue to evaluate safety procedures in coordination with the Sheriff’s Office. ‘Disturbing trend of violence’ Following Palomata’s death, the California Nurses’ Association (CNA) raised concerns about the safety of nurses assigned to potentially dangerous facilities. In a statement, the CNA called for policy reforms to curb what it called a “disturbing trend of violence" in facilities where medical care is provided. “Workplace violence is a major public health concern that has grown substantially in the past decade," the CNA said. It cited data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the healthcare industry registered the highest incidence of workplace violence among all industrial sectors, being responsible for 45 percent of the two million incidents of workplace violence incidents that have occurred annually in the US between 1993 and 1999.
An Emergency Nurses Association survey released in 2009 also showed that more than 50 percent of emergency room nurses had experienced violence from patients and more than one-fourth had experienced 20 or more violent incidents in the past three years. Citing research, the CNA also said that factors such as long wait times, a shortage of nurses, drug and alcohol use by patients, and treatment of psychiatric patients all contributed to violence in the ER. “We can no longer tolerate inadequate security measures which threaten not only RNs and other staff, but also put families and other patients at risk," said CNA president emeritus Kay McVay. “Violence takes a significant toll. Prevention is essential to creating a safe and therapeutic environment for patients and a safer workplace for healthcare workers," she said. She also said that preventive measures were needed to reduce the loss of experienced staff members, who leave because of assaults and threats of violence. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration define workplace violence as any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace. Part of the job In a separate interview, Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) president Dr. Teresita Barcelo said the violence that nurses face, even in the Philippines, is “real" — and this is why preventive mechanisms need to be instituted even as early as when prospective nurses are still studying for their college degrees. “Violence is one of our job hazards. We know that. That’s why kami na ang nag-iingat, because these people (patients in potentially violent worksites) cannot be relied upon," Barcelo said. Barcelo said the nursing curriculum includes a course on psychiatric nursing, where students are taught how to develop a “therapeutic relationship" with their patients. Barcelo admitted that certain incidents of violence — such as that experienced by Palomata — cannot be expected and are difficult to prevent. Even so, she added, developing this kind of relationship with patients may significantly reduce the occurrence of violent acts. But even outside these facilities, nurses, particularly in the Philippines and in some countries in the Middle East, become the subject of crimes, according to Barcelo. She cited the case of Florence (not her real name), a volunteer nurse in South Upi town in Maguindanao who was reportedly gang-raped on September 27. (See: Report: Maguindanao gang-raped nurse undergoes surgery) “It is important that part of the orientation in the hospitals and other facilities should be to inform medical professionals of the possible dangers of working there. This should be part of the protocol of hospitals," Barcelo explained. Nursing: popular because lucrative? In the last five years, some 82,000 nurses have indicated their desire to work in the US by taking the National Council Licensure Examination, the licensure exam for nurses in the US. The Department of Health said a big surge of nurses working overseas started in 1994, when some 100,000 nurses left the country. From 2000 to 2009, about 120,000 more were deployed abroad. In light of increased opportunities for overseas work, nursing remains a popular course for college students, with over 600,000 students taking it in 400 nursing schools in 2007, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines. Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration meanwhile show 13,000 newly hired Filipino nurses were deployed overseas in 2009, making it a top occupational category for OFWs, second only to household service work.—DM/JV, GMANews.TV
Reposted From GMA News.TV