Nurse Practitioner, Nurse, & Social Worker Killed While Working

The past week has held a lot of tragedy for the nursing & health care community. Three member of our community- a nurse, a social worker, and a nurses practitioner were all killed while simply doing their jobs. And we aren’t talking about military medics on the front lines of war (which is tragic) but civilian nurses in a hospital and detox center in the U.S. Places staff, patients, and families should be safe. Our country and hospitals are failing nurses and healthcare workers- over and over again.

On Tuesday October 18, June Onkundi, a psychiatric nurse practitioner was stabbed and killed by a patient she was caring for at Freedom House Recovery Center in Durham, NC. The recovery center is a halfway house and detoxification center.

On Saturday October 22, a nurse- Katie Flowers, who went by Annette, and Jacqueline Pokuaa, a social worker were shot and killed at Dallas Methodist on the post partum unit . The alleged killer was shot by a Dallas Methodist police sergeant in the leg. He was stabilized and transferred to a nearby hospital.

Violence Against Health Care Workers

These tragedies are senseless and heartbreaking. Healthcare workers should never fear for their lives when going to work, but especially fear of death by a gunshot. Yet, healthcare workers are five times as likely to experience violence in the work place as other professions. We have enough trauma with the mismanagement of the entire pandemic, short staffing, lack of needed supplies. Violence against healthcare workers has alway been an issue, and now it is on the tragically on the rise. Some other concerning statistics:

  • The rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018
  • In a survey by National Nurses United, 48% of the more than 2,000 responding nurses reported an increase in workplace violence — more than double the percentage from a year earlier.
  • 44% of nurses report experiencing physical violence
  • 68% of nurses report verbal abuse during the pandemic

Poor Response from Dallas Methodist

This message from a employee at Dallas Methodist was shared on The Nurse Erica’s instagram and it is heartbreak that the hospital not only failed to protect the nurse and social worker who passed, but they also failed to care for the mental and emotional health of their staff member. I have since read that crisis councilors were brought in- but why were they not there from day 1? Why were they not working to make the staff feel safe and help them cope. This is, yet again, another moment when healthcare facilities and admin fail to care for the healthcare workers.


Representatives Madeleine Dean (PA-D) and Larry Dean Bucshon (IN-R) introduced the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act. This bill, modeled after current protections for aircraft and airport workers, would provide legal penalties for individuals who knowingly and intentionally assault or intimidate hospital employees. This bill needs to be passed as a first step in protecting healthcare workers.

The bill is endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Indiana Hospital Association, and the Indiana Organization for Nursing Leadership.

Support from NSN

If you need a safe place to come and share your thoughts and feelings on these tragedies, your fear for the future of nursing or walking in to work, or whatever it may be- Nurses Supporting Nurses is here for you. We hold a complimentary support group every Wednesday at 8pm EST for nurses, nursing students, and CNAs. Visit the website or reach out if you want more information.

Sending love to the families of the lost healthcare workers. I am truly sorry the system failed your loved on.