CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - An Emergency Room nurse at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge says it took only a matter of seconds for him to go from healthcare provider to patient after he was attacked on the job.

Bob Davis said he intervened after a large male psychiatric patient in the ER became physically aggressive with a female staffer last Wednesday.

“I was struck several times in the face with a closed fist, and when I was able to wrestle the patient to the ground, he had one hand free and clawed pretty significantly at my head and face,” he said. “He was going into a hallway that dead-ends at four rooms. One way in, one way out, and two of those rooms were occupied by an elderly female and a 13-month-old child. My thought was, ‘If he gets into one of those rooms this is going to be much worse.'”

His story is not unique. Davis blames the uptick in violence on a corresponding uptick in psychiatric patients.

“We are expected to be a combination of nurse, security, babysitter — and with the volume of patients we have to treat just as nurses, we can’t possibly cover all those bases,” he explained.

Dwindling resources in mental health care facilities means many psychiatric patients have nowhere to go except the emergency room. The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association reported a staggering 727 psychiatric patients were in the ER last week, waiting for admission to inpatient programs.

A spokesperson for Mount Auburn Hospital said they are taking a number of steps to protect staff against this growing concern. They include “providing staff training and de-escalation techniques, having security on site, and sharing resources to support staff who are victims or witnesses of violence.”

It is a problem Davis is not sure how to solve but he hopes that by sharing his story, he will spark a conversation that could help.

“Hopefully changes are made that benefit, in the end, the patients,” he said.

Davis chose not to press charges against the patient who hurt him saying he did not want to see the man go to jail. As a nurse, he said he just wants to see that man get better.

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