Chicago Tribune

As hospital violence grows, nurses seek reforms: 'Too many of us are being hurt'

CHICAGO _ One woman describes getting slapped and groped on the job. Another was punched in the head repeatedly. A third was bitten so hard that a spike in blood pressure burst an aneurysm in her brain, altering her life forever.

All three are nurses, who say their jobs place them in harm's way as the rate of violent incidents at hospitals appears to be growing.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the rate of hospital employees intentionally injured on the job at the hands of another person is significantly higher than the rate across all private industries. In 2015, the most recent year available, there were 8.5 cases of injuries per 10,000 full-time hospital workers, versus 1.7 cases for all private industries.

The data also shows that injury number for hospital workers steadily rose from 2011 to 2014 but dropped slightly the following year.

According to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration guide on addressing violence in hospitals, 70 to 74 percent of workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 happened in health care settings.

And hospitals in the Chicago area have not been immune to such violence in recent years.

In May, two nurses at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva were taken hostage by a Kane County jail inmate after he got hold of the gun of a corrections officer guarding him. One of the nurses was sexually assaulted, according to a lawsuit filed in the case, before the inmate was fatally shot by police, authorities said.

Less than a month later at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, a convicted murderer who was there for treatment used a makeshift weapon to hold a corrections officer and a nursing assistant hostage.

In 2014, a man who had been taken to NorthShore Highland Park Hospital after

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