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Mass. Hospital Makes Security Changes After Nurse Stabbed 11 Times

Additional metal detectors, security cameras and panic buttons have been installed throughout the hospital after the near-fatal stabbing of an ER nurse.

Mass. Hospital Makes Security Changes After Nurse Stabbed 11 Times

The nurse is currently advocating for a bill, renamed Elise's Law, which will require annual safety risk assessments and workplace violence prevention plans for healthcare facilities.

A Massachusetts hospital began implementing new security measures on Monday following the stabbing of a nurse by a former patient back in June.

Elise Wilson, a 43-year veteran nurse at Harrington HealthCare System’s Southbridge location, was working as an emergency room nurse on June 14 when 24-year-old Conor O’Regan stabbed her 11 times, severing her brachial artery and causing nerve damage.

Wilson, 65, was flown to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester after her injuries were deemed too serious to be treated at Harrington, reports Mass Live. Doctors say Wilson almost died from tremendous blood loss. She was also on a ventilator and had to use a feeding tube for a month.

Investigators say O’Regan picked Wilson at random and was seeking revenge for what he considered to be unsatisfactory treatment at the hospital three weeks prior for a wrist injury. He told court physicians that he heard voices telling him to “be a warrior”.

What Security Changes Are Being Made?

On Monday, hospital administrators posted a press release outlining the changes, which include limitation of visitors in emergency departments and mandatory bag searches at Harrington’s Southbridge and Webster locations.

Each patient in the emergency departments will be limited to two visitors. Added public safety officers will manage visitors as they arrive. Public safety officers will also now carry batons, pepper spray and handcuffs.

“There are very strict guidelines and circumstances under which these tools would be used, and that is being communicated during the training being taken by our Public Safety Department,” says Harrington vice president Harry Lemieux.

Many hospital employees, including public safety staff, will participate in de-escalation training and defensive tactics. On-site training and drills will also be rolled out with department and building-specific protocols, according to the statement.

Two walk-through metal detectors have also been placed at emergency room entrances and additional security cameras and panic buttons have been installed throughout the hospital.

“Our priority continues to be creating the safest environment possible for anyone who visits our hospital or any of our medical office buildings,” says Lemieux. “We have been working hard to revise our policy to create safe but more flexible visitation, and we think this adjustment accomplishes that need.”

Stabbing Victim Advocates for Hospital Security

Since the stabbing, Wilson has become an advocate for legislation that she says will make nurses, hospital staff and patients safer.

The bill, which has since been renamed Elise’s Law following her attack, would require healthcare employers to conduct annual safety risk assessments and develop workplace violence prevention plans based on the findings, reports the WB Journal.

The bill would provide healthcare workers who are assaulted on the job with up to seven paid days off per year to handle legal issues. It would also allow nurses to use their healthcare facility address instead of their own when handling legal issues related to the assault.

The current legislation was filed in January and the bill was approved by the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in July.

Chris Pontus, associate director of Health and Safety at the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), points to a staggering increase in violence against nurses and other healthcare workers in recent years as motivation to pass Elise’s Law.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, violent incidents against healthcare workers in private hospitals have increased by 110 percent from 2005 to 2014. The agency also says healthcare workers are five to 12 times more likely to experience workplace violence than any other profession.

Pontus attributes much of the alarming uptick to an increase in mental health needs.

A court physician says O’Regan suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. In August, he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.

About the Author

Contact:

Amy Rock is the Campus Safety Web Editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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