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Nurses’ Union Seeks End to Hospital Violence

Seventy percent of ER nurses report being assaulted


The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is pushing for the passage of a bill that would require health care providers to partner with unions to create a comprehensive workplace violence program, according to reports in the Boston Business Journal. The move comes a few months after a Boston hospital shooting that left a physician dead.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Michael Brady (D-Mass.), would require health care providers to partner with unions on a comprehensive workplace violence program.

While hospital shootings are rare –– only 150 occurred from 2000 to 2011 in the U.S., according to research published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine –– 70% of emergency room nurses reported being assaulted during their career, according to MNA spokesman David Schildmeier.

The MNA has attempted to file similar legislation for more than a decade, after a nurse was assaulted by a patient in a mental health hospital. Although the nurse pressed charges against the patient, a judge ultimately said dealing with the incident was a part of her job.

Each year, the MNA has made progress in getting the legislation passed, Schildmeier said, and the Brigham shooting may bring to light the necessity to deal with the issue more broadly.

The legislation asks that health care employers perform a risk assessment, and then develop a program to minimize workplace danger. The law also asks that a senior manager be put in charge of an in-house crisis response team. Moreover, the language gives employees recourse to report violations and seeks to fine providers who don’t comply with the requirements.

Although many Massachusetts hospitals have safety plans in place, union spokespeople say they aren’t enough.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 3 months after a surgeon was shot by the family member of a patient, the MNA said that another nurse was threatened with a knife by the family member of a patient.

Schildmeier also said that, at another hospital, there were 425 assaults alone in 2014.

“Nurses are assaulted as much as police officers and prison guards, and five times more than any other industry combined. That’s why we need the bill,” he remarked.

On the other hand, John Erwin, executive director for the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, said such regulations largely aren’t needed.

“I think it’s common sense in a lot of places. That occurs in all of our hospitals. All of them have in place policies and procedures in how to identify and respond to workplace violence,” he said.

The best way to address workplace violence is by sharing information, a practice common among emergency preparedness staff at Boston hospitals, Erwin added.

Sources: Boston Business Journal; July 21, 2015; and Boston Business Journal; July 20, 2015.

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