WHAT: Violent attacks on nurses and other emergency room medical workers seem to be increasing nationwide as more drug addicts, alcoholics and psychiatric patients show up for care. ER visits for drug- and alcohol-related incidents increased from about 1.6 million in 2005 to nearly 2 million in 2008, according to federal statistics.
WHY: From 2006 to 2008, the number of those visits resulting in violence increased from 16,277 to 21,406. Nurses and addiction experts say risks are getting worse because the economic downturn makes cash-strapped states close hospitals, cut mental health jobs, eliminate addiction programs and curtail other support services.
WHAT’S BEING DONE: Nurses are demanding better security measures, such as 24-hour guards, coded ID badges, metal detectors, bulletproof glass and staff “panic buttons.” And, they want tougher criminal penalties for assaults against health care workers.