Recently I’ve spent time sitting under a sign which reads: “Warning. The Trust will not tolerate acts of violence or verbal abuse to its staff.” Anyone who regularly visits hospitals will know that such warnings are commonplace. At first I hardly noticed it, rather like the signs which read “the management cannot accept any responsibility for …” seen in so many car parks. But then I noticed a hospital security man’s body armour under his reflective jacket, and it struck me that the signs are there because of a real possibility of violence. How can it be that in our peaceable nation those who work in healing establishments are exposed to potentially murderous violence?
The threat of violence in itself is troubling enough, but what troubles me even further is the fact that earlier I had hardly noticed the sign. I am disturbed to consider the thought that I am somehow inured to idea of violence in an institution solely dedicated to well-being and healing. Shouldn’t I be outraged at the idea that nurses, doctors, care workers and support staff are exposed to danger in the very act of caring? Shouldn’t I be burning with indignation at threats, potential or actual, directed against professionals dedicated to personal and common good? Doesn’t the acceptance of such signs as “part of life nowadays” somehow demean us all? My answer has to be “yes” to all three questions.