Patients who threaten to hit me I do not mind as long as they are not able to carry out the threat. Although I have been hit by several patients in my career as a PTA, they never ended in an injury. While in school I worked in a group home for disabled adults and was severely punched and knocked back into a wall. I can still feel the scar tissue on my bottom lip. Is this a risk health care providers must endure to perform their jobs, like contracting a blood-borne pathogen?
The recently approved Massachusetts bill added physical therapy to a list of health providers to increase our protection and make assault a more punishable crime. It is about time; perhaps a sweeping change in this long-overdue protection is needed. Often we have no protection when assaulted by patients. I have lost count of how many times patients have dug their nails into my arms or tried to swing at me. One patient actually got up out of bed with his fists up ready to fight. I calmly stepped back out of the room and shut the door.
Then there is the issue of whether patients can understand what they are doing - if an assault was intentional and the patient wanted to harm a provider. Difficult issues but certainly a step in the right direction.