Protecting Health Professionals in the Workplace

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Protecting Health Professionals in the Workplace - HB1921 | SB973

Great news! On February 20th, HB 1921 was signed by Governor McAuliffe and will go into effect on July 1st

What is the current law, and what does this legislation do? 
Under current law, increased penalties only apply to a battery against an emergency healthcare provider in the emergency room of a hospital or other facility providing emergency care. HB1921/SB973 ensures that health professionals are protected equally in the hospital setting or other facilities providing emergency care, and not only in the emergency room. The bill also requires the Department of Health to work with stakeholder groups to develop guidelines regarding the publication of penalties for battery on a healthcare provider and for the training of healthcare professionals and providers in violence prevention programs.

Why is it important?

Hospital employees are more than 4-5 times more likely to face workplace violence than the national average.

  • In 2013, overall rate for PRIVATE industry non-fatal workplace violence: 2.8 cases per 10,000 workers; while PRIVATE hospital employees’ rate of non-fatal workplace violence is 14.7 cases per 10,000 workers.[i]
  • In 2013, overall rate for STATE employee non-fatal workplace violence: 32.8 cases per 10,000 workers; while STATE hospital employees’ rate of non-fatal workplace violence is 156.8 cases per 10,000 workers.[ii]
  • While under 20% of all workplace injuries happen to healthcare workers, healthcare workers suffer 50% of all reported assaults.[iii]
  • Of 3,765 nurses surveyed by the American Nurses Association, almost one-fourth had been physically assaulted at work.[iv]

This problem is not just in the emergency room.

  • 21% of registered nurses and nursing students report being physically assaulted,[v] while only 12% of emergency department nurses experienced physical violence.[vi]

Anyone working in a hospital may become a victim of violence. [vii]

  • Nurses and aides who have the most direct contact with patients are at higher risk.
  • Other hospital personnel at increased risk of violence include emergency response personnel, hospital safety officers, and all health care providers.

Several studies indicate that violence often takes place during times of high activity and interaction with patients, such as at meal times and during visiting hours and patient transportation.[viii]

  • Assaults may occur when service is denied, when a patient is involuntarily admitted, or when a health care worker attempts to set limits on eating, drinking, or tobacco or alcohol use.

Healthcare has some unique cultural factors that may contribute to underreporting or acceptance of workplace violence.[ix]

  • Some will put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient, and many in healthcare professions consider violence to be “part of the job.”
  • Healthcare workers also recognize that many injuries caused by patients are unintentional, and are therefore likely to accept them as routine or unavoidable.
  • Another consideration is unwillingness among healthcare workers to stigmatize the perpetrators due to their illness or impairment.

[i] GAO March 2016 Report, page 46; citing BLS 2013 data.

[ii] GAO March 2016 Report, page 46; citing BLS 2013 data.

[v] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3826.pdf, pg. 3; citing American Nurses Association. 2014. American Nurses Association Health Risk Appraisal (HRA): Preliminary Findings October 2013–October 2014.

[vi] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3826.pdf, pg. 3; citing Emergency Nurses Association and Institute for Emergency Nursing Research. 2010. Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study.

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