PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There's been an increase in violence against nurses and health care workers in New Jersey hospitals over the past three years, according to a new survey. The pandemic and staffing shortages have created all kinds of problems in hospitals across the country.
This new report centers on violence directed at health care workers in New Jersey.
Nurses say battling COVID-19 has felt like a war.
"The pandemic totally changed nursing," ICU nurse Angie Wheeler said.
"It's just been nonstop, it's been so busy that people are just getting exhausted," nurse Jen Shaft said.
A new survey from the New Jersey Hospital Association says health care employees have experienced an increase in violence over the past three years. That physical and verbal abuse in hospitals comes mainly from patients.
"I had a patient that was kind of confused and he started swinging at me, pulled my arm almost out of the socket," said Barbara Rose with Health Professionals and Allied Employees.
Nurse Rosen is now with a union that represents RNs and other health care workers in the region.
"Hospitals were short-staffed, to begin with. During the pandemic, it exacerbated the staffing shortage," Rosen said.
The survey says last year in New Jersey, there were 9,962 hospital attacks. That's a 14.6% increase.
"It's a system-wide issue," Rosen said.
The report says most aggression happens in emergency departments -- often caused by frustration over long waits -- and also in behavioral health settings where patients act out because they're disoriented or high on drugs.
"Patients can get hurt in violent episodes as well," Rosen said.
Hospitals have acknowledged staffing shortages but say ensuring safety for staff and patients is a priority.
The nurses union wants more legislation to protect health care workers and for hospitals to institute better protections or enforce the ones that already exist.
for more features.