Violent assault leaves Abbotsford nurse with broken jaw, serious head injuries

BC Nurses’ Union call for provincial government to take immediate action to address systemic violence after unprovoked attack

A nurse is lucky to be alive after she was viciously attacked by a patient / perpetrator while on shift at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) early Tuesday morning, according to the BC Nurses’ Union. The patient / perpetrator, who used an exercise weight as an improvised weapon, ambushed the nurse leaving her with a broken jaw, fractured cheek bone, damaged teeth, as well as other serious facial and head injuries. She is expected to undergo surgery on Wednesday.

“I’m deeply troubled by this latest gruesome and excessively violent attack on one of our nurses,” said BCNU President Christine Sorensen. “It’s time the government steps up and provides funding so that health authorities can ensure safety protocols are in place and nurses’ safety is made a priority.”

Both WorkSafeBC and police have sent investigators to ARH. The patient / perpetrator was taken into police custody on Tuesday and later returned to ARH for additional medical treatment. He has since been charged with aggravated assault and the Crown recommends he remain in custody.

“It concerns me that this person was able to get his hands on a weapon and attack this nurse, who was there just doing her job and caring for patients,” said Sorensen. 

Since 2017, BCNU has been running the campaign, ‘Violence. Not Part of the Job’, which has successfully raised awareness about the systemic violence nurses experience on a daily basis. In BC, public polling has found that nine out of 10 people feel more needs to be done to keep nurses safe.

Tuesday’s attack comes just days after BCNU sent a letter to Dr. Victoria Lee, Fraser Health Authority’s President and CEO, calling for immediate action to address the deteriorating conditions in ARH’s emergency department. While the assault happened in a different unit within ARH, ongoing violence, staffing shortages and recruitment and retention challenges have many nurses self-reporting moral distress, and burning out.