Metal rod attack on nurses raises the question, how safe are hospital staff?

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An attack on four nurses by a man wielding a metal rod at a Maplewood hospital last weekend has raised concerns about the safety of staff at Minnesota's health facilities.

Charles Logan, 68, of St. Paul, charged at a nursing station at St. John's Hospital in the early hours Sunday morning and attacked four staff members with the rod, leaving one with a collapsed lung and another a broken wrist. The video of that attack was released Thursday, FOX 9 reports, and it's since been played on national television.

Logan later died in handcuffs after police used a stun gun on him while he was being apprehended.

A study by the US Department of Justice found that between 2002 and 2009, there was a substantial drop of 35 per cent in violence at workplaces across the nation.

But that may not be the case for the state's hospital staff, as the Star Tribune reports the Maplewood attack "reflects a clear trend" of violence against hospital workers, with a record 46 compensation claims being filed by nurses assaulted in Minnesota hospitals in September.

And the Minnesota Office of Health and Safety Administration told MPR that workplace injury claims for assaults and violent acts at hospitals have increased since 2012.

Because of the nature of the job, which sees hospital workers regularly in contact with people in vulnerable states, the healthcare profession has a higher than average incidence of workplace assaults.

A study conducted in 2007 found that the assault rate among healthcare practitioners was 6.1 per 10,000 workers, according to Nursing Economics, compared to a national average of 2.1 per 10,000 among all professions.

"We have some of the best places to receive care in the world in Minnesota," Diane Rydrych, director of health policy at the Minnesota Department of Health, told MPR. "But healthcare workers are at a greater risk for violence."

Training offered to help prevent violence

At Hennepin County Medical Center, there were an estimated 100 assaults on staff members by patients in 2013, KARE 11 reports, and staff at the hospital recently took part in a drill using paintballs in which a gunman is loose in the emergency department.

Violence against staff is an issue being treated with the highest importance across the state, with 90 hospitals signed up for a safety campaign on preventing and responding to violence, MPR says.

The feedback they have been providing is being used to train healthcare professionals on how to recognize and respond to potentially volatile patients in order to minimize risks to their personal safety and the safety of their colleagues.

The Star Tribune notes that St. Cloud Hospital has been leading the way in anti-violence training measures, as well as implementing systems that allow staff to leave notes on patient records should they present a risk to staff, and leaving marks on doors to certain patients' rooms.

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