Things took a turn for the worst at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, NY on the morning of Thursday, February 27th. Ian U. Castaldo, 27, was being treated at the hospital when he stabbed three nurses on staff, including two RNs and one student nurse, with a pair of scissors. The nurses were then treated for multiple stab wounds, including those on their heads, necks, and back areas. Castaldo is now in police custody.
As horrifying as this incident is, workplace violence remains all too common in the healthcare industry. In fact, nearly 75% of workplace assaults take place in healthcare settings. Find out what went wrong at Ellis Hospital and how you can prevent incidents of workplace violence at your facility.
What Went Wrong
Ellis Hospital is a well-respected facility in upstate New York. It’s known for its high nurse-patient staffing ratios, which has led to better patient outcomes and higher rates of patient satisfaction. However, the facility may want to take another look at its security measures after this most recent incident.
It remains unclear how the patient managed to gain possession of the scissors while he was being treated. Staff members soon rushed to the scene to restrain Castaldo until authorities arrived. The nurses who were Castaldo’s victims have since been released, according to hospital officials. Thankfully, most of the wounds appear to be superficial.
Police took Castaldo into custody, where he was charged with a total of five counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. According to the allegations, Castaldo had a criminal history at the time of the arrest, so authorities charged him with a felony weapons count on top of the assault charges.
He was then arraigned and held on $10,000 bond, which he has since posted, according to local authorities.
How to Prevent Workplace Violence
So, what can we learn from this devastating situation? For starters, it’s not clear whether the care providers on staff were aware of Castaldo’s criminal history. If they had been, they might have taken more precautions to negate potentially threatening risks from him.
Many former felons go without healthcare when they leave prison until they end up in the emergency room. Felons also tend to be in poorer health compared to non-felons. They often suffer from high rates of substance abuse, poor diets, and a number of mental health concerns.
If you’re not sure if your patients have a criminal history, use these tips to reduce the chances of workplace violence:
- Consider sharing patient information with your local police department. The police are not covered under HIPAA, so they have the right to access medical records. If you suspect one of your patients may be a threat to themselves or staff members, you can always check with the police to see if there is a record of this individual in the criminal justice system.
- Use caution when utilizing medical tools and equipment on the job. Do not leave surgical scissors, needles, syringes, and other sharp objects unattended when caring for your patients.
- Set up mandatory psychological evaluations for incoming patients to screen them for signs of mental illness, aggression, and violence.
- Always work in pairs when caring for irritable or potentially violent patients. Nurses and care providers should never be left alone with those they care for who seem dangerous, especially if they have a criminal record or a history of violence.
- Install emergency buttons in patient rooms or have staff members carry around emergency buttons, so they can call for help immediately if a patient gets out of control.
- Check incoming patients for hidden objects and cargo such as sharp tools, weapons, drugs, and other dangerous items.
Our hearts go out to all the nurses injured at Ellis Hospital. No one should have to suffer from on-the-job injuries and workplace violence. If you’re unsure of the threat risk a patient poses, reach out to local law enforcement and find out if the patient has a criminal record.
Remember, felons need healthcare just as much as anyone else. It’s just about taking the proper precautions when caring for these kinds of patients. Use restraints as ordered and use other methods to keep threatening patients under control while they’re in your care.