NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Violence against healthcare workers appears to be a growing problem.

A TriStar Centennial Medical Center patient attacked a nurse with a metal object Monday. The blow was so bad, it required stitches.

“This isn’t a new problem. This has been going on for a long time, unfortunately,” said Carla Kirkland, immediate past president of the Tennessee Nurses Association.

Metro police were initially called to the hospital to transport 49-year-old Issah Abdallah to the Metro cold weather shelter.

Abdallah was not awake when officers got there and, just as they were about to leave, a nurse came running out, saying one of their coworkers was just assaulted.

Officers found Abdallah lying on the floor and the nurse was standing beside him with blood running down his face.

The victim told officers Abdallah hit him with a metal object, which was later determined to be a base plate for a thermometer, leaving him needing three stitches in his face.

“For years, nurses have been assaulted. I know nurses who have been bitten, spit on, hit, bones broken, and thrown up against the wall. It’s a huge problem; it’s a huge problem all over the country,” Kirkland said.

The Tennessee Nurses Association said this is an attack that happens more often than many may realize.

“Often, the nurse is afraid to file the report because they are worried about their safety when the perpetrator gets out, because they will. This is still going on. There needs to be stricter consequences when this happens,” Kirkland said.

TriStar Centennial Medical Center released a statement, which reads:

“The safety and security of our patients, physicians, staff and visitors is of utmost importance. TriStar Centennial Medical Center has policies, processes and protocols in place to maintain a safe environment. We have zero tolerance for harassment of any kind in our hospital and when necessary will take appropriate action, which may include contacting local law enforcement, to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all.”

“I would love to see more legislation. I would also like to see hospital security optimized, just to have stronger penalties and for hospitals to step up their security measures,” Kirkland said.

Efforts to protect our nurses here in Tennessee has circulated the state Capitol for years. A bill upgrading the penalty for assaulting a nurse to a Class C felony went into effect in July 2021.

However, the Tennessee Nurses Association said that hasn’t stopped the violence against healthcare workers.

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“Nurses don’t feel safe and hospitals, especially in emergency departments, they are very vulnerable. Sometimes security isn’t strong enough,” Kirkland said.

Abdallah was booked into the Metro Jail and and is now facing Class C felony charges of trespassing and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His bond was set at $10,100.