MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nurses across the metro say they are scared. They say workplace violence is a major problem and they want more protection.

This comes after an assault at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center last Thursday. A nurse at the psychiatric hospital operated by the Department of Human Services was attacked and seriously injured by a patient.

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A criminal complaint says Andrew Taggart punched the nurse unconscious because she would not give him Tylenol. He is now charged with 3rd degree assault

Negotiations between the Minnesota Nurses Association and several metro hospitals are underway. Nurses are asking for more workplace violence protection and help for nurses who are injured. The Anoka incident punctuates a point local nurses have been trying to make for a while.

“I’ve had sprained wrists, I’ve been cold-cocked,” nurse Mary McGibbons said between negotiations. “You know, my glasses went flying, black eye.”

McGibbons latest injury is her arm from a hallucinating patient.

“He’s getting more and more anxious and needing help,” she said. “He reached up and just grabbed my arm and my shoulder and pulled me down, and I may have a rotator cuff (tear).”

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McGibbons says she got into nursing 26 years ago to support her young family.  She wanted to help others and ended up getting hurt  She works at Methodist Hospital in the Rapid Response unit to deescalate patients.

“What’s happening is everybody is coming to the hospitals and we are not prepared to be taking care of a lot of mental health issues,” she said. “We’re not a psych hospital so we need the help.”

McGibbons is joining the nurses union in asking for better protocol in violent situations, like a violent attack at a Maplewood hospital in 2014.  She says hospitals are for healing, not for hurting.

“I think it’s a very good possibility that, potentially if this isn’t addressed, somebody could be killed,” she said.

A law went into effect in 2014 to give injured healthcare workers more rights. The union is asking for more enforcement, and more support for those injured. The Minnesota Nurses Association Union will be negotiating through May 31.

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Methodist Hospital’s director of communications, Ashley Burt, released the following statement: “Methodist Hospital is committed to bargaining at the table and not through the media. Both sides acknowledge that workplace violence prevention is an important issue. We’ve worked for seven sessions and Methodist Hospital essentially has an agreement with MNA that supports our nurses on workplace violence prevention.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield