Their job is to care for victims of violence. But sometimes they become victims themselves.

Braden Gunem, Thinkstock
Braden Gunem, Thinkstock

Healthcare providers in New Jersey's hospital emergency rooms claim violence aimed towards them is a regular part of the job.

"Part of our culture like running a code," as it's stated on the website for the New Jersey chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"I know many co-workers and nursing staff that are on the front lines have been hit by patients, kicked, bitten," said Dr. Jenice Forde-Baker, assistant medical director for the emergency department at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden.

Forde-Baker recently led a survey of 223 staff members of New Jersey emergency departments, and close to 80 percent said they've experienced verbal or physical assault at least weekly, sometimes daily.

"This is from anyone, any source," Forde-Baker said. "It can be from patients, it can be from family members, it can be from visitors."

In some events, patients may not fully realize they're acting out — the product of a head injury or intoxication. Some attacks involve visitors who don't agree with a hospital's limit on the number of people allowed in the room, or family members who need answers quicker than the staff is delivering them.

In a statement on the NJ-ACEP site, the group insists "knowledge is the first step in changing the pervasive culture of violence."

Forde-Baker, a board member, said simple signage can go a long way in keeping calm and avoiding trouble.

Downloadable posters, available at the group's website, aim at deterring outsiders from engaging in violence inside the ER. It notes violence against any health care provider is aggravated assault and punishable by law.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at