ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Nurses were present and making their voices heard on the lawn of the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles Township during the Stop Assaults On Medical Professionals Rally on Aug. 11.
The gathered nurses and others called for workplace safety in their profession and legislative reform. The display was ignited by what happened to two nurses at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital on May 13 when a jail inmate, Tywon M. Salters, took two nurses hostage. It was later said by attorney Sean Murray that “one of the nurses was repeatedly beaten; she was tortured; she was raped.” A lawsuit has been filed by the nurses, stating as such.
Janie Garner, executive director of the Show Me Your Stethoscope Foundation, said when she heard about what happened at Delnor she was horrified by the lack of national media coverage. She explained that part of the reason nurses are vulnerable to assault is because hospitals allow it.
“I’ve personally been punched in the face by an emergency department patient because the physician didn’t write her an opioid prescription,” Garner said, going on to say that the police department refused to arrest the offender. “It’s happening every single day.”
While on the podium, Garner went on to say, “What happened at Delnor Hospital can never be allowed to happen again.”
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, and state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, also spoke at the event.
“Until I was invited, I didn’t know health care is one of the most dangerous occupations,” McDermed said.
She added that since she didn’t know, it was very likely that other state representatives also didn’t know. But she did bring information to the rally, specifically that Illinois is one of the states that punishes battery against nurses as a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in prison. She noted that throughout the state there are 47 arrests per year, and Kane County has so few arrests and convictions that the amount is not reportable toward that number.
“Stand up for yourself and be heard,” McDermed said, calling for nurses to be their own advocates and to be vocal. “Don’t think it’s necessary to sell yourself short. Demand justice and safety.”
Oberweis said that he wouldn’t pretend to understand the solution to the issue. He took questions from the audience, including one about whether it should be mandatory to prosecute battery against nurses. He responded that it would be logical to do so.
Both McDermed and Oberweis said the safety of nurses is a bipartisan issue. Oberweis has a daughter who is a nurse practitioner.
Many who attended the rally reported some form of assault or injury inflicted in their line of work. Shelly Fink, a registered nurse from Indiana, said she worked in critical care for 11 years and during that time she had been kicked, punched and spit at.
“It’s always been part of the job, and it’s not OK,” Fink said. “The opioid epidemic is making this way worse. … If you’re sick and in a bar and you hit me, you go to jail. If you’re sick and in a hospital and hit me, you should go to jail. It’s not OK.”
Other speakers at the event included Alice Johnson, executive director of the Illinois Nurses Association; Arnoldo Fabela, director of field mobilization for the Illinois Federation of Teachers-American Federation of Teachers; Tim Drea, secretary treasurer for the Illinois American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; Jim Leslie, a democratic state representative candidate for the 50th District; and Pamela Robbins, a professor and past Illinois Nurses Association president.
The rally was presented by Show Me Your Stethoscope and sponsored by the Illinois Nurses Association, Silent No More Foundation, the National Black Nurses Association Chicago Chapter, Emerald Health Services and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
To learn more
For more information about the Show Me Your Stethoscope Foundation, visit www.smysofficial.com.