Assaulted nurse thanks PEF for support, pay benefit
By DEBORAH A. MILES
During the last week in March, a patient at Buffalo Psychiatric Center dumped pineapple juice over the heads of Tracy Boyle, a PEF member and registered nurse, and a mental health therapy aide (MHTA). The patient, a young and slender woman, was unprovoked, had military training, and came to Buffalo PC from a holding center. She had stopped taking her medications.
When the female MHTA went to wipe the juice off her face, the patient began to pummel her. That’s when Boyle went into action.
“I went to her aid, and the patient and I spun and slid on a pool of juice. It was like being on an ice skating rink,” Boyle said. “We careened into a metal door handle, and I heard my rib snap. She continued to escalate and fight, and she bruised my hip.”
Boyle was taken by ambulance to the nearest emergency room for X-rays. Her ninth rib was fractured, and her doctor was concerned that it may dislodge and pierce her spinal column. Since then, her doctor visits have gradually decreased from every four days to once every two weeks.
“I’m now in physical therapy for my hip. My back still feels like somebody just punched me,” Boyle said.
PEF Division 180 Council Leader Vincent Cicatello contacted Boyle when he learned of the incident, offered his assistance and informed her about an assault-pay benefit through the union.
“We are here to lend a helping hand in making a very stressful and painful time a little easier and comforting,” Cicatello said.
He contacted PEF President Wayne Spence, who personally called Boyle, also offering his concern, and advised her of the avenue to take through PEF’s Health and Safety Department.
“I received many phone calls, not only from President Spence, but from many Executive Board members expressing well-wishes. Those calls lifted my spirit.
“Everyone pointed me in the right direction on how to obtain the assault pay. PEF’s Healthy and Safety staff made numerous calls to my home, provided the appropriate paperwork. I am so grateful to have received this benefit that PEF provides to its members. With mounting bills and waiting for workers’ compensation to start, it was a large weight off my shoulders. I received notices in the mail on a regular basis keeping me updated of the process, and a final letter that stated when the benefit would be received.”
Boyle said this was the second time she was injured on the job while working at Buffalo PC. The time before, a male patient who arrived from jail was non-compliant with his medication and kicked her in the knee cap.
“We don’t have constant assaults here. There are code calls, but I am not aware of staff being injured on a daily basis,” she said.
Boyle said her female attacker is in jail, but the district attorney is recommending her release due to her mental illness.
“That’s the sad part of all this. That has to change. We have to look at individual cases as they all vary. This patient is a very smart girl that used the system to justify her actions.”
Spence said all facilities should have an updated violence prevention plan in place.
“PEF had advocated for the Nurse Felony Law. It is a felony to assault an on-duty nurse, and PEF fought hard to make that law a reality. Violence against nurses is still under-reported and some criminal justice authorities are unaware of the law’s requirement,” Spence said.
Boyle added, “I just want to thank everyone so much for getting the ball rolling for me. PEF is a very caring union. I would not have known about this benefit if it wasn’t for our steward and council leader, Vinny. Everybody definitely went above and beyond.”