Aggression, abuse, threats: Missoula hospitals act to protect staff

David Erickson

Hospitals are places where emotions, tempers, stress and anxiety can get out of hand, and health care workers have always had to deal with people who need to be calmed down.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges as patients and family members who don’t want to comply with safety precautions become abusive, either verbally or physically.

Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula has experienced a significant increase in the number of incidents with aggressive patient and/or visitor behavior since the onset of the COVID pandemic.

“I don’t know if there’s words to say how stressful that is,” said chief nursing officer Beth Hock. “Can you imagine someone standing in front of you, yelling at the top of their lungs?”

No amount of training in the world can soothe a nurse trying to do his or her best for a sick patient in that situation.

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“We train caregivers to use de-escalation techniques, but we’re all human,” Hock said. “Caregivers are here to serve and try to be helpful. But when they’re called names and obscenities, those things really cut to the emotional core of our

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