Lynne Truxillo finished her shift, despite having sustained serious injuries trying to save another nurse from a behavioral health patient who attacked them at Baton Rouge General earlier this month.
She finished her shift before undergoing a medical exam, which revealed she would need surgery to repair a torn ACL. And she died five days later, on April 11, after a blood clot traveled to her lungs — a death the East Baton Rouge coroner ruled a homicide because the blood clot resulted directly from her injuries.
Now members of the nursing community nationwide are expressing outrage over Truxillo's story and calling for better hospital safety practices to minimize the dangers of their profession which have long been a problem. Advocates said her death marks the latest tragedy from a persistent threat of workplace violence that medical workers face in hospitals across the country.
The death of a Baton Rouge General nurse will be investigated as a homicide after the coroner ruled on Tuesday that she died of injuries from …
Dr. Zubin Damania, a practicing physician who has garnered internet fame under the name "ZDoggMD" for his comedic raps and commentary, posted a recent video arguing that Truxillo's death shows "how we are devaluing our frontline healthcare professionals, putting them in harm's way and expecting our healers to make the ultimate sacrifice in service for their patients: to die in service for their patients."
"We cannot shut up about this," he said. "Our job is … to keep making noise, to keep advocating for safer units, for better mental health care, for better support for our frontline clinicians, for better security in hospitals."
Media reports of the incident have been shared thousands of times on social media over the past several days, often with the hashtag #silentnomore encouraging healthcare workers to report instances of violence instead of allowing them to be brushed under the rug.
"We are mourning yet another loss of life," said Michelle Mahon, a registered nurse and representative for the labor group National Nurses United. "As healthcare becomes more like factory work, the workforce is viewed as somewhat expendable. There is a cultural problem there, too. Many nurses don't even report violence because they have the perception that nothing will change."
But Mahon said tragedies like this push more people to demand action.
"I don't think it's any coincidence that an occupation comprised mostly of women has been exposed to violence for so long. I also don't think it's any accident that we're seeing a cultural shift in what women are willing to tolerate as a collective," she said. "We're getting to the point where this is no longer acceptable."
The patient accused of attacking Truxillo, Jessie Guillory, 54, was arrested this week on a count of manslaughter.
Guillory initially attacked another nurse, police said, and Truxillo stepped in to help her colleague. He then turned on her, grabbing her neck and striking her head on a desk. She injured her leg trying to escape.
A number of Baton Rouge General employees said Guillory had a known history of violence against medical professionals at that hospital and others. The employees spoke to The Advocate on the condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to share information with the media. Hospital representatives did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
A Baton Rouge General nurse was trying to save her colleague from an attack when the patient responsible turned on her instead, inflicting inj…
In separate incidents at the Tau Center, a mental health treatment facility in Baton Rouge, two men were arrested Monday after employees reported being assaulted while attempting to administer treatment to them. One of the victims sustained a busted lip and broken finger, according to police.
Some argue that arresting patients is an appropriate response, but Mahon said it's not productive, particularly when psychiatric issues are involved.
She said the healthcare facilities themselves need to devote more resources to preventing violence before it occurs, including through adequate staffing levels and individual patient care plans. If the patient has a history of violence, their care plan should address and mitigate that risk, Mahon said.
There are no federal standards in place now, but a bill was recently introduced in Congress that includes two new requirements for hospitals: develop violence prevention plans and report all instances of violence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Mahon said the legislation would introduce a more standardized approach and create a paper trail to help hold facilities and administrators accountable for violence that occurs under their watch. The federal bill is modeled after California's approach.
Better funding for mental health care would also help protect nurses, particularly in Louisiana where advocates agree the state's notoriously underfunded psychiatric treatment system often leaves patients with nowhere to turn.
Crystal Harris tries to follow her usual routine, even when she finds herself sitting in jail dealing with a nervous breakdown.
Kristi Tortorich, of Baton Rouge, a former nurse who worked in hospitals across the country — including Louisiana, New York, Arizona and Texas — said she left the profession after 10 years in part because of safety concerns.
"We choose this job because we love it and we want to help people. But I've been held at gunpoint, choked, punched, come home with bruises multiple times," she said. "This is nothing new and it's happening everywhere, not just in Baton Rouge. … Until we start treating nurses as people again, this is never gonna get fixed."
In the meantime thousands of American workers are being assaulted on the job each year. Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO, said women in the "healthcare and social services fields are disproportionately the victims of these attacks.
"This is a national crisis," he said in a statement to media Thursday. "And it's well past the time that folks in Washington, D.C., stop playing politics and take action to prevent these tragedies."