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Union lends support to assaulted UFT nurse

New York Teacher
Miller Photography

Staten island University Hospital South nurse Courtney Holder, who was viciously attacked by a patient in 2017, thanks fellow UFT members and officers who came to show support at the sentencing hearing of the attacker at State Supreme Court on Staten Island on May 4. The man was sentenced to two-to-four years in jail under a 2010 state law, which the Federation of Nurses/UFT lobbied hard for, that made it a felony to assault an on-duty nurse.

A courageous Federation of Nurses/UFT member faced the former patient who attacked her as he was sentenced on May 4 in State Supreme Court on Staten Island, where fellow UFT members and officers packed the courtroom in solidarity and support.

“No one has the right to assault a nurse without paying the consequences,” said emergency room nurse Courtney Holder, the nurse who was attacked.

Michael Schuhmann, who pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault, will serve two to four years under the state’s 2010 Violence Against Nurses law, which made it a felony to assault an on-duty registered nurse or licensed practical nurse after years of lobbying by the UFT.

“We lobbied for this change because every employee deserves the right to feel safe at work, especially those whose job it is to help and comfort others,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Schuhmann showed no remorse for attacking Holder on March 25, 2017, just five minutes into her shift at Staten Island University Hospital South.

It was the “worst day of my life,” said Holder. As she tried to keep Schuhmann from falling out of bed, he stood up and began punching the back of her head.

“He grabbed me by my hair and wrapped the wires from the heart monitor around my neck and started to strangle me. I fell to the ground and blacked out,” Holder recalled.

In her statement, Holder expressed thanks for the support she has received. “My family and friends, co-workers, the hospital and my union, the ADA (assistant district attorney) and DA’s office are the reason I am able to stand here today to see justice served,” Holder said.

Nancy Barth-Miller, the chapter leader at Staten Island University Hospital South, lauded Holder for “paving the way” for other nurses facing similar circumstances.

“Had this happened just a few years ago, you’d be fired for speaking up,” said Anne Goldman, the UFT vice president for non-DOE members and the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT. “This is about protecting all of us and not allowing these abuses to occur.”

Supporters clad in identical union T-shirts erupted in shouts and applause as Holder left the courthouse with her parents.

“They are very supportive where she works and she feels safe there,” said her mother, Jennifer Holder.

That support followed the plaintiff from the hospital to the courthouse on the opposite end of Staten Island. “You need a coalition behind you,” said Glenn Fishman, a co-worker. “She had to go through a year of this. Imagine if she didn’t have support? If she was doing this on her own? That’s why I was there. I wanted to show support.”

Holder contemplated not returning to work after the assault, but nursing is “what I love to do,” she said. “I’m not going to let him win.”