Spectrum Lakeland reminds people of the 'worker behind the mask' amid increase in patient violence

NOW: Spectrum Lakeland reminds people of the ’worker behind the mask’ amid increase in patient violence


NILES, Mich. -- Imagine working in an emergency room, which is always tense, and then experiencing disrespect from those you’re caring for – which at times even leads to assault.

It’s a terrifying idea of a day at work that’s becoming an increased reality for Lakeland Hospital workers.

“The verbal aggression – yelling, cussing, threats – it makes it hard for them to brush it off and go to the next patient’s room,” said Karlye Visel, RN, clinical nurse supervisor at Lakeland Hospital’s Emergency Room Department.

Hospital emergency rooms are already overwhelmed from COVID surges, an overall increase in walk-ins and trying to keep mitigation strategies in place.

At Lakeland, add that with the number of security calls nearly tripling, from around 40 to 60 a night to an average of 170.

“It’s evolved into a full-service security department and we just applied for a police authority license to help manage these threatening behaviors,” said Al DiBrito, manager of security services at Spectrum Health Lakeland.

Lakeland recently found that those disturbance calls are up 34% and assaults on staff accounted for 91% of all incidents – compared to the 85% average across U.S. hospitals in 2020.

They’re now hoping a new initiative – Behind the Mask – opens eyes to the pressure workers are under.

“This is someone else’s love one trying to care for your loved one and please be kind,” said Visel.

Plus, hopefully still inspire people to pursue healthcare – even during this troubling time.

“We’re going through a rough patch, but it’s a very rewarding career,” said DiBrito.

Photos from Lakeland’s Behind the Mask initiative will be posted throughout their facilities to serve as reminders.

If Lakeland is granted a police authority license, it would allow their security to act more swiftly to threats rather than waiting for law enforcement to arrive.

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