Sonja McCarthy had no idea the day state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) made one of her routine “constituency outreach” stops at her Aurora home in the summer of 2016 that the two would end up working together on a bill to reduce workplace violence.

McCarthy, an emergency room nurse who had just gotten off her overnight shift at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove — and, like Kifowit, a fellow Marine — was awakened by that late morning knock on her door. But the two women quickly fell into a passionate conversation when her state rep asked what issues were of most concern.

McCarthy knew a lot about workplace violence. Not only had she run into it time and again as a level one trauma nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan for 13 years, she was a founding member of the group’s committee to address an issue that was starting to be recognized as a critical problem in the industry.

The conversation went well. And because of this meeting, Kifowit was instrumental in passing a bill that would raise the penalty for assaulting a healthcare worker to a felony.

While hospitals statewide already have or are working to comply with the new law, the consensus is there is no way you can stop violence from happening. As one official noted, when you have hundreds of patients in a building with thousands going through the ER a year, “things are going to happen.”

But the idea is to continually work toward updating policies, reviewing them and giving employees as much feedback as possible to assure them they will be kept as safe as possible, officials insist.

McCarthy, who estimates she’s put “thousands of hours” into this issue, hopes to one day train others in how to recognize pre-violence indicators and de-escalate situations, as well as work with hospitals on appropriate documentation that, for example, would more quickly denote a patient’s history of violence.

While attacks, particularly verbal assaults, are still under-reported, likely because there is still fear among workers that speaking out could jeopardize their careers, McCarthy is encouraged by “significant progress” in defining the problem.

And, while she recognizes there “is still work to do when it comes to how best to report and track the violence,” she describes it “as such a proud moment” when this bill became law.

“We no longer consider it part of the job … that it’s not OK if this person is violent towards me,” she said. “I really do see how far we have come.”

Twitter @dencrosby

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City: Aurora,Region: W Suburbs,Opinion

via Beacon News Opinion – Aurora Beacon-News

January 13, 2019 at 07:12AM