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"It is not safe here anymore"

April 6, 2006 -- Today the SUN St. Kitts / Nevis ran a short piece by Corliss Smithen about the toll from a "recent spate of gun-related crimes," especially the effects on the nurses at Joseph N. France General Hospital. The nurses there now reportedly "fear for their lives" because of a lack of security to prevent shooters whose victims do not die from coming to the hospital to "finish the job." The brief piece highlights an important issue in nursing practice. Nurses spend far more time with such patients than anyone else, so they would naturally be most at risk, yet nurses and their concerns are often ignored, so such security concerns may not be taken seriously. We commend those responsible for this piece.

The piece is headlined "Nurses call for security at hospital." It says that nurses at the hospital have been "stretched to the limit" by the rise in shootings in recent months. Apparently this is in part because of the strain of providing care to the victims. But the piece focuses on the security risks, especially for nurses on the surgical ward, "where most of the shooting victims are admitted for recuperation." The nurses are "calling for the deployment of security personnel;" the piece does not say what, if any, security there is now. It does quote an unnamed nurse as follows:

[N]o one is here to guard the victims or the nurses. Anyone can come on the ward and request to see any patient. We are not in authority to ask who they are or to search their bags if they are carrying any. Once they come within visiting hours, they are allowed to go on the wards. We can't stop them and they may go to the patient and do what they have to do. It's a real serious situation. It is not safe here anymore.

The issue of security has been an important one for nurses across the world. Nurses are the professionals who monitor and care for patients 24/7, so they will naturally be most at risk for such potential violence, from patients or others. Yet nurses' concerns are commonly disregarded, and they often have insufficient power to motivate decision-makers to allocate the resources needed to protect them or patients. Sometimes, nurses' concerns are met with the objection that providing more security would create a hostile care environment for patients. But it would seem that some balance could be found that would allow nurses to provide the care patients need without "fear[ing] for their lives" or those of the patients.

We thank Corliss Smithen and the SUN St. Kitts / Nevis for this report.

See the article "Nurses call for security at hospital" by Corliss Smithen in the April 6, 2006 edition of the SUN St. Kitts / Nevis.