Gretchen Marasigan-Esteva will remember what happened to her on Dec. 25, 2021 for the rest of her life.
She was working at her job as a nurse at a long-term care facility in Winnipeg when a resident stabbed her in the arm with a pair of scissors.
“I was so shocked, it didn’t really sink in right away,” Marasigan-Esteva recalled. “I felt so lost. It was just hard to process everything.”
Five months later, Marasigan-Esteva says she is still grappling with the trauma. Now, she’s speaking out about the incident to call attention to the violence she and other nurses face all too often.
She says she was in the facility’s nursing station finishing her shift when she saw the resident running toward her.
She tried to get out, but the office is small so she was trapped as the attacker lunged at her with a pair of scissors, making stabbing motions at her face and neck.
“I was screaming the whole time,” Marasigan-Esteva said. “There was no one to help me.”
I’ve seen dark days. It’s hard to function on a daily basis because of the trauma. You get very irritable. You get emotional. You get very sensitive.– Gretchen Marasigan-Esteva
After struggling with the resident for several minutes, an aide was able to distract him long enough for Marasigan-Esteva to get away and lock herself in a bathroom.
That’s when she noticed she had been stabbed in the arm, the wound requiring stitches.
Marasigan-Esteva says she was working on a different floor than she usually does, after the same resident had attacked other nurses just two days prior.
That’s confirmed by a Winnipeg police news release about the incident, which says the man was transported to the hospital for a medical and psychiatric assessment after attacking Marasigan-Esteva.
The long-term care nurse says she thinks the whole incident could have been prevented if the facility had more resources.
Common part of job
Incidents such as this are unfortunately very common for health-care workers employed in long-term care facilities, says Joyce Kristjansson, a retired long-term care nurse and interim executive director of the Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba.
Part of the problem, Kristjansson says, stems from the fact that long-term care nurses are often dealing with patients who have dementia, so they’re not aware of their actions, she said.
However, Kristjansson says, it can be hard to quantify just how often it happens because many long term-care nurses and aides see it as part of the job.
For example, she says, when she was a manager of a facility researchers interviewed some of her staff, and found that 80 per cent of them had experienced some form of violence or harassing behaviour in the previous week, but she only knew about a fraction of them.
“Many staff take it as part of everyday work and don’t report incidents unless they’re serious,” she said.
Marasigan-Esteva is still on leave from her job, receiving physical therapy and counselling to help her recover from the assault.
“I’ve seen dark days,” she said. “It’s hard to function on a daily basis because of the trauma. You get very irritable. You get emotional. You get very sensitive,” she said. “I’m in a much better status right now, emotionally, but it’s hard.”
However, in spite of everything she’s been through, Marasigan-Esteva says she is determined to go back: “I still want to answer the call and help other people.”
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