News stories

UFT members have assaulted nurse’s back

UFT representatives outside state Supreme Court on Staten Island on Aug. 14 Jonathan Fickies Nicole Cleary (center), a nurse at Staten Island University Hospital South, and her husband Michael are joined by colleagues, retirees and UFT representatives outside state Supreme Court on Staten Island on Aug. 14 after a former patient was sentenced to jail for attacking Cleary in the hospital’s emergency room in 2017.

A Federation of Nurses/UFT member — bolstered by colleagues and other union members gathered in solidarity — stood up in state Supreme Court on Staten Island on Aug. 14 and bravely described how an assault by a patient has changed her life.

“I look at work differently now,” Staten Island University Hospital South nurse Nicole Cleary said at her attacker’s sentencing. “There are certain situations I don’t put myself in.”

Wearing “In union there is strength” T-shirts, members witnessed a judge impose a three-month jail term on a former city police officer who punched Cleary in the face on April 12, 2017, in the hospital emergency room.

In June, a jury convicted Thomas Kelly, 55, of a felony count of second-degree assault under New York State’s 2010 Violence against Nurses law. He also was convicted of a misdemeanor count of third-degree assault.

“We at the Federation of Nurses/UFT are proud to have lobbied successfully to change the law so it is a felony to assault a nurse on duty in New York State,” said Anne Goldman, the UFT vice president for non-DOE members.

“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” said Staten Island University Hospital Chapter Leader Nancy Barth-Miller. “We have to put an end to violence against nurses who are trying to take care of their community.”

Cleary said she takes extra precautions now.

“Where I park my car matters now, I don’t take overtime anymore, I don’t like being alone with patients for a long period of time,” Cleary said. Her husband would prefer she didn’t work in the ER, but Cleary won’t let the attack keep her from doing what she loves.

Prosecutors said an intoxicated Kelly had called 911 the day of the assault, asking to be taken to the hospital. In the emergency room, he pulled out his IV and said he wanted to leave.

“I was standing there because he looked unsteady,” Cleary explained. She turned to speak to a doctor and when she turned back to the patient he punched her, causing bruising, swelling and pain. Cleary was examined and sent home.

At the sentencing, Kelly apologized to his victim and the other UFT members with her.

Fellow nurse Fran Amico said it was important to be in the courtroom “to show our support for Nicole and for our profession.”

Cleary, who testified for two hours at the trial, said she never imagined what an ordeal it would be. “You really do need support when you’re going through something like this,” she said.

In addition to the jail time, Kelly was ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and anger management classes. He faces up to seven years in prison if he fails to comply.

Cleary said she hopes Kelly gets the help he needs.

In May, another patient was sentenced to two to four years in jail for attacking another Staten Island University Hospital nurse. Michael Schuhmann pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault after wrapping heart monitor wires around Federation of Nurses/UFT member Courtney Holder’s neck, causing her to black out.

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