Healthcare workers recount assaults by patients they were trying to serve

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Kelly Kelley’s injury looks better now than it did in September.

“It’s under a Band-Aid. It’s healed pretty well,” the nurse practitioner said, showing the healed cut where one of her patients punched her.

“She turned and hit me all at once,” Kelley said. “The third time she came back at me, she was slapping, swinging, and scratched the side of my neck.”

Kelley, who said she had to tell the patient that she couldn’t immediately refer her to another doctor, is the latest healthcare worker to recount instances of violence in their workplace.

Kelley’s boss, Chandler Anderson, said the assault on his worker at his clinic in Columbia prompted him to hire a production company. The result – a public service announcement warning their patients against attacking staff.

“You have enough people like me who have employees who are getting hurt that say, ‘I don’t care about your feelings.’ You hurt an employee of mine,” Anderson said.

In Portland, nurse practitioner Randy Tidwell told police in August that he had to deny a patient’s request to return to work because of prescriptions the patient was taking.

Tidwell told police the patient that struck him in the head 10 times and choked him until he almost lost consciousness.

“Randy turned around to walk out of the room and the guy punched in the back of the head and then got on top of him and just punched him in the face,” Anderson said.

Assaults on healthcare workers are prompting warnings nationwide from the American Association of Critical Care workers to OSHA, citing hospitals as being one of the most dangerous places to work.

The nurse practitioners who told their stories to News4 Investigates don’t believe the pandemic has pushed more patients over the edge.

Rather, the nurse practitioners said the problem is an overwhelming need for patients to have immediate gratification, especially when it comes to pain medicine.

“If you say no, you are putting yourself in bodily harm. You put yourself in bodily harm because these people will hurt you if you said no,” Anderson said.

The attacks on healthcare workers come as the state passed legislation this year that makes it a felony to assault nurses.

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