Cal/OSHA Launches Probe Into Attack That Injured Two Stanford Hospital Psych Nurses

Stanford Hospital's Boswell Building houses the facility's Inpatient psychiatry clinic. (Google Street View)

State workplace regulators are investigating Stanford Hospital after a nurse in her 70s was attacked by a patient in a psychiatric unit earlier this month in an incident police learned of two days later.

The attack, which left the nurse with serious injuries, took place on March 12, but Palo Alto police did not learn of the incident until March 14.

Another nurse was injured in the incident as she tried to break up the assault, according to Frank Polizzi, a spokesman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

Palo Alto police spokeswoman Janine De la Vega said investigators have conducted interviews into the incident and plan to refer the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office next week. Prosecutors could charge the patient with battery and elder abuse, De la Vega said.

So far, the victims and the patient involved in the assault, first reported by the Stanford Daily, have not been identified.

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Lisa Kim, a Stanford Health Care spokeswoman, declined to release any information about the case, citing patient privacy.

It's unclear why police were called to investigate the incident two days after it happened.

"We always want to know immediately when a crime occurs," De la Vega said. "Unfortunately, we can't control when someone decides to report an incident to us."

Nurses at Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital are represented by the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), a union that's currently in contract talks with hospital managers.

CRONA president Colleen Borges, in an emailed statement, declined to comment on the recent attack but emphasized that nurses should be protected from workplace violence.

"Nurses deserve to be safe at work," Borges said, adding that health care employees are more likely to experience violence on the job than the average U.S. worker.

She said the union's opening proposal calls on the hospitals to improve their workplace safety practices.

"CRONA wants to see effective violence prevention plans implemented in the hospitals, and to ensure that nurses have the right to request a change in patient assignment after any violence or threat," Borges said.

"Stanford and Packard hospitals serve many high-needs patients, and must have adequate staffing, support staff and security measures in place to keep all patients and staff members safe," she said.

Kim, the Stanford Health Care spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment on the union talks.