CHESAPEAKE, Va (WAVY) — Nurses are under attack and it’s getting worse.

A survey by the American Nurses Association reports one in four nurses is physically assaulted on the job. Since the pandemic began, reports have gone up.

On Tuesday, as part of National Nurses Week, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center said it was focused on events to stop the violence against health care workers.

Larry Farmer, a mental health clinician in Chesapeake’s emergency department, spoke before a crowd of his colleagues Tuesday afternoon at a Stop the Violence Against Health Care Workers Ceremony. In 45 years on the job, he said he has had his nose broken, a gun pulled on him and been stabbed with a pencil.

“I’ve had just be sitting and talking with a patient and the patient be calm and all of a sudden they’re in my lap pounding me in the face,” Farmer told WAVY.

Unfortunately, experiences like his are becoming too common.

“Just like across the country, our organization unfortunately has seen a rise in the number of incidences over the past two years,” said Nursing Administrator Jeannine Simon.

A combination of rising mental health issues, substance abuse and economic stress has contributed to a dangerous working environment for health care workers. 75% of workplace assaults happen in health care settings, but only 30% of nurses and 26% of emergency department physicians have reported violent incidents.

“I think there’s this natural tendency where nurses and health care workers, they want to heal and they don’t want to be reporting crime,” said Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Hamel. His own wife, he said, is one of those health care workers. “She’s come home many times with bite marks and bruises from people who are combative.”

A patient coming out of anesthesia, for instance, may not know what they are doing, but Hamel wants others who abuse health care workers and the workers themselves to know that abusive behavior should not be tolerated — it should be prosecuted.

“I hope people are encouraged to report those crimes,” he told WAVY.

Farmer has gone to court and actually received an apology letter from the woman who pummeled him in the face.

“I think the whole thing is, we are here to help people,” he said, adding that sometimes accountability is the best medicine.

On Tuesday night, you can show your support and bring awareness to the need to stop assaults on health care workers at a community walk. It’s happening at the hospital, 736 Battlefield Blvd., Chesapeake at 7:30 p.m. Families and pets are welcome.