Massachusetts Nurses Push For Law To Protect Them From Patient Violence

Massachusetts Nurses Push For Law To Protect Them From Patient Violence

The proposed measure would require hospitals and other employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs.

Nurses are advocating for the Massachusetts state legislature to adopt a law that would require their workplaces to design and implement programs to protect them from violence.

In mid-July, nurses traveled to Beacon Hill, the state capitol building, to testify about the bill and the rise of attacks on nurses throughout the country.

“Violence against caregivers is rampant," Kathy Stokes, a registered nurse in Boston, said, according to Boston 25 News. "As a nurse and as a profession, we should not sit back and let things continue."

The proposed legislation gained new life after a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Nurses Association in 2016 found that more than 85 percent of nurses report being physically or verbally assaulted by patients on the job. Some of the healthcare workers who testified said they had suffered split biceps, back injuries and more after being attacked by patients.

“At one point I had my back to the patient then next thing I knew she had hit me and knocked me to the ground," nurse Deb Falk said.

The bill, titled “An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence,” would require hospitals and other employers to put safety measures in place to prevent attacks from happening. The nursing association supports the measure, but an industry group says the proposal could be “detrimental” to employers’ efforts to increase workplace security.

“We believe the proposed bill being heard before the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security (S. 1427/H. 1416) would duplicate, and in some cases conflict with, existing processes and requirements," the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association told The Metro West Daily News in a statement. "We are currently working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure safe hospital environments, and this type of conflict and confusion could be detrimental to the progress of these conversations.”

The hospital association instead supports a measure that creates new statewide standards for addressing safety risks in hospitals and making sure its members have workplace prevention programs that meets those standards.

But Karen Coughlin, the vice president of the nurses association who has worked as a nurse for over 30 years, said hospitals have been slow to acknowledge the problem. She thinks the original measure, sponsored by Reps. Denise Garlick and Kimberly Ferguson, could actually have an impact on nurses across the state.

"Without legislative action, hospitals and other health care facilities are under no obligation to put the measures in place that will help to mitigate workplace violence," Coughlin said during the legislative hearing, according to Boston 25 News. "That is why we are taking action."

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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