As a nurse with over 10 years of experience, I would like to bring people’s attention to the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. This is a piece of federal legislation that has overwhelmingly passed the House (254-166) and hopefully the Senate in the coming months. The bill requires the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue and enforce occupational safety and health standards that would protect front-line health care workers such as nurses, doctors and social service workers from violence in the workplace.
Opposition to the bill is coming from powerful organizations with deep pockets that claim there are already plenty of mechanisms and resources in hospitals and elsewhere to keep their workers safe. The fact is that hospitals often cut support staff such as security to improve their bottom line. Also, if effective systems were already in place, then health care workers wouldn’t represent almost three-quarters of all workplace violence occurrences, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I can personally attest to the fact that many violent events go undocumented, and this bill would establish a standardized method of reporting.
This bill is long overdue and represents a proactive strategy to protect nurses and other health care workers who are trying to care for their community members. The bill is not a solution to workplace violence but is a first step in the right direction. Although this is federal legislation, it will be impactful for front-line health care workers here in Western North Carolina. Supporters of this bill include several health care organizations like the Emergency Nurses Association and American College of Emergency Physicians. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr could use a nudge to encourage their support of our front-line health care workers.
— Eric Sjoden, R.N.