Sadly assaults both verbal and physical are a common occurance in hospitals around the world. A recent survey in the NZMJ confirms the amazing prevelance. Nurses are more at risk than doctors as they spend more time in promixity to patients. With those working in psychiatry and in emergency departments being at the highest risk.
Despite these rates it seems to be an accepted part of the job that the odd patient will attempt to punch/hit/kick/spit on you or more commonly verbally abuse you for any number of reasons. In my experience it is very rare that a patient is prosecuted for their behaviour. Often colleagues are dissuaded from taking matters further even after being assaulted.
Perhaps a police liaison such as those being introduced at Blackburn hospital would make a change. Having the local constabulary visit the department and offering the patient the choice between settling down or visiting the cells has been almost universally effective in getting patients to comply with requested standards of behaviour.
The last word i will leave to Paul Quigley from Wellington Hospital ED:
“There are mentally ill patients, others are under the influence, and some people are just arseholes”
NZMJ article http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/127-1394/6125/
Thoughts from mike ardargh http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/10074792/Hospital-staff-under-attack
Blackburn (WARNING Daily mail link) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2591479/Hospital-A-amp-E-unit-gets-time-POLICE-station-patients-violent-abusive.html