Lack of safety, not pay, causes staff shortages
As a former director of nursing (2002-03) at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents, I must comment on the excellent July 17 article in the RTD, “They work 16-hour days and get hit.” The children at the center are being treated for mental illnesses, developmental delays and behavioral problems, which can cause aggressive behavior. The staff has regular training on how to respond to assault, hair pulling, choking, biting, etc.
While low pay might contribute to staffing shortages, I believe that it is lack of safety and exposure to injury that is the real cause of low staffing. With proper remedies for aggressive behavior — including physical and medical restraint and seclusion — these behaviors can be managed by well-trained staff, who are committed to maintaining the respect and dignity of each patient.
However, the General Assembly and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services implemented new regulations that removed the clinical interventions needed to maintain patient and staff safety. This crisis cannot be resolved with money, but with adequate safety precautions for staff.
I resigned my position as director of nursing because I could not keep my staff safe without adequate clinical interventions.