They were hurt at work. More Tri-Cities nurses are speaking out

Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland
Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland Tri-City Herald file

Jessica Murphy cares for sick and hurting people every day.

But on Sept. 9, the longtime emergency department nurse at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland was the one in need of medical care.

She was hurt in a violent attack at the hospital — one of two in September in which a patient ended up criminally charged for attacking staff.

Murphy was hit and slammed into a door, suffering two bulging discs in her back and nerve impingement, along with a concussion, she said.

She’s now in physical therapy.

“I’m used to dealing with violent patients. We’re punched. We’re kicked. We get hit. I don’t want to say it’s a daily occurrence, but it seems” to be happening more and more often, she told the Herald.

Jessica Murphy Courtesy of Jessica Murphy

Murphy is adding her voice to a growing chorus of nurses — in the Tri-Cities and beyond — who want to raise awareness about workplace violence in health care settings and inspire changes to improve safety.

Ashley Schade, an intensive care nurse at Kadlec, also recently spoke out after she allegedly was choked by a patient while trying to change his IV. Her Facebook post about the incident went viral, shared more than 66,000 times.

In that case, Bruce S. Darling, 65, has been charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree assault. His family said he’s a good man with no violent history and that recent medical issues changed his mental state.

In the Sept. 9 incident that injured Murphy, patient Melinda M.N. Rose, 34, faces two counts of third-degree assault in Benton County Superior Court.

She was “an involuntary commitment and was scheduled to go to Tacoma to a mental health facility the next morning,” according to court documents.

She became increasingly hostile as the night went on and said she was leaving because she didn’t want to return to Tacoma, court documents said.

When staff tried to stop her, she assaulted them, the documents said. In all, three nurses, a physician and a security staffer were hurt, documents said.

Reached on Friday, Rose — who said she’s currently being treated at a mental health facility — didn’t yet know about the criminal charges.

She said she didn’t assault the Kadlec employees. “I wanted to leave the hospital and they attacked me. That is the truth. I wanted to leave and they attacked me,” she said.

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This collages includes photos of injuries sustained by Jessica Murphy and other Kadlec staffers in an alleged Sept. 9 assault. Courtesy of Jessica Murphy

Another attack at Kadlec in November sent a Tri-City woman to prison for two years. Elizabeth A. Tyshchuk, 39, pleaded guilty to assault after kicking a nurse who was trying to draw her blood.

While the Kadlec incidents have shocked many in the community, they’re not limited to that hospital and are part of a trend.

From 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious violent workplace incidents in health care was more than four times higher than in private industry, the U.S. Department of Labor reported.

“In fact, health care accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined,” the federal agency said on its website.

The Washington State Nurses Association is advocating for increased staffing and training to help address the issue of violence against health care workers.

Murphy said she’s adding her voice to shine a light.

“I want to create change and educate not only the community but the hospitals as well. This is happening right here every day. (It) does not matter how small or big the violence is, it is occurring. I want to prevent this from happening to my co-workers, my family, my friends. We as health care providers are human and deserve to be treated as that,” she said.

Fellow nurse Karina Bethje also was hurt in the incident when she tried to intervene. “All nurses, including emergency nurses, are a special breed. We consider ourselves brothers in arms. We’re fighting together — very hard sometimes — for people. For the betterment of our community,” she said.

Now they’re fighting for awareness and changes, she said.

In a statement, Kadlec officials said the hospital “fully supports action being taken by law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office on behalf of our caregivers. We do not tolerate any aggression toward our staff and continue to work with our affected caregivers to ensure they feel supported and safe.”

Safety of patients and caregivers is its highest priority, the statement said.

“We continue to explore ways with our staff, security team and local law enforcement to make sure the procedures we have in place are as effective as possible,” the hospital’s statement said. “We will stay engaged in developing and improving our protocols to help deter future incidents, and will do everything we can to maintain a safe environment.”

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529