News & Events

MNA Draws Statewide Media Coverage for State House Hearing on Nursing Assault Prevention Bill

The MNA was front page news throughout the state yesterday for its advocacy to protect nurses from violent assaults on the job. Below is a sampling of the coverage that has appeared in connection with a State House hearing held on July 14th concerning MNA-filed legislation to stiffen the penalties for those perpetrating workplace violence against nurses.  We thank the courageous nurses who testified at the hearing, and for sharing their compelling stories with the news media to raise public awareness of and support for this important issue.

NECN Story

12 hours 14 min 57 sec ago
Bill would toughen penalties for assaulting health care providers

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(NECN: Jennifer Eagan) – When one thinks of hospital injuries, patients come to mind. But nurses often find themselves in danger while treating a number of conditions. A bill being taken up at the Massachusetts State House aims to toughen penalties for those convicted of such crimes.

Judith Smith Goguen was working as a nurse in Westborough when a patient assaulted her.

She says she was blindsided by her attacker.

“I had a resulting head injury, laceration, with severe back, head injuries from that.”

The attack happened a decade ago.

Smith-Goguen has been assaulted since then…most recently in March when a patient bit her.

It’s why the nurse of 33 years supports a bill meant to bring a harsher penalty against anyone who attacks a health care provider on the job.

According to statistics provided by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, 50% of Massachusetts nurses surveyed in 2004 reported being punched at least once in the previous 2 years.

A more recent study shows nurses are 16 times more likely to be confronted with violence on the job then other service professions.

State leaders, including Worcester County District Attorney Joe Early Jr. testified on behalf of the legislation at the State House Tuesday.

The bill would create a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail for anyone convicted of assaulting a health care provider.

But, early says patients suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s

The Salem News
Hospital worker attacked in 2003 says legislation was a long time coming
By Stacie N. Galang
Staff Writer
July 15, 2009 06:00 am

BOSTON — Life changed completely for Charlene Richardson the day she was brutally assaulted by a patient she was treating in the emergency room of Beverly Hospital.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be the same,” she said.

Richardson was one of about 40 hospital nurses at the Statehouse yesterday afternoon showing support for a bill that would make assaulting a health care worker on duty a specific crime with its own set of penalties.

Since she was assaulted in March 2003, the registered nurse has spent her time advocating for a law that would support her and other nurses while they help patients.

Richardson hopes an existing law that protects emergency medical technicians against assault from patients would be extended to protect others, including nurses.

“Why can’t we have the same thing for nurses?” she asked. “The commonwealth needs to look at that. For six years, I’ve been asking them to look at that.”

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett spoke briefly yesterday to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which heard testimony on behalf of the bill. He told the panel that nurses can be “spit at, punched and kicked.”

“While we rightfully think of law enforcement and firefighting as being high-risk jobs, it is a fact that among those most susceptible to workplace violence are health care professionals,” he said in a prepared statement given to the committee.

Blodgett also detailed Richardson’s incident in his testimony. Three security guards, another nurse, two emergency room patients and a visitor intervened to pull the drunken and violent attacker off the nurse, the district attorney wrote.

If the bill passes, a person who attacks a health care worker could face jail time up to 2¬½ years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

“This is very necessary,” said Sen. Fred Berry, D-Peabody, one of the bill’s three sponsors in the Senate.

The majority leader said he was confident it would be an “easy pass.” The statistics on workplace violence toward health care workers speak volumes, he said.
“I do think nurses are in danger,” he said. “I think it’s a very hard bill to ignore.”

As it is, an assault and battery on a nurse is essentially seen as part of the job and hospitals tend to discourage workers from filing charges, Richardson said.

She had to press charges privately and waited 16 months before her attacker, John Brown, formerly of 100 Washington St., Salem, was convicted. He was sent to jail for 18 months.

“That was the worst for me,” Richardson said of her long journey to seek justice.

She has since become an advocate for nurses who have similarly been assaulted while working. A nurse for nearly two decades, Richardson is now associate director of education for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the state’s largest union for registered nurses and health care workers.

Richardson also said the law would help the public. If an ER nurse is away from her duties because of an assault, patients aren’t getting care.

After her incident, she would only work in the locked recovery room. She once vowed never to return to the ER.

Working to help others who have been attacked by patients has helped Richardson grow stronger emotionally. Now, she splits her time between the ER and the recovery room.
“Never say never,” she said of her return.

Richardson said she would be able to find some semblance of closure about her ordeal once the bill becomes law.

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Sentinel & Enterprise
Local nurses heading to Beacon Hill Seeking stiffer penalties for those who assault workers
By Dan Magazu,
Posted: 07/14/2009 06:32:24 AM EDT

LEOMINSTER — Ayer resident Carol Mcguane said she has been assaulted at least 10 times during her 32-year career as a nurse at HealthAlliance Hospital/Leominster.

“It can be very frightening,” Mcguane said Monday. “I’ve seen two co-workers brutally assaulted and choked while on the job.”

Mcguane recently won a settlement against a woman who punched her in the face at the hospital last July, she said.

“I was walking her into the building when she just hauled back and slugged me,” said Mcguane, who said she learned during the trial that the woman had been convicted of assault and battery on three occasions. “I wanted to cry it hurt so bad.”

Mcguane is one of several nurses from different communities who will appear on Beacon Hill today to testify in favor of proposed legislation that will increase penalties for anyone who assaults an on-duty nurse.

David Schildmeier, director of communications for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said nurses and other health professionals are about 12 times more likely to suffer violent assaults than workers in other industries.

“There are often very brutal assaults that go on, and that’s why we want to strengthen the penalty,” Schildmeier said.

The bill will make it a crime, punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison, to assault a registered nurse while he or she is providing health care.

It is co-sponsored by state Rep. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, and state Sens. Jennifer

Flanagan, D-Leominster, and Michael Moore, D-Worcester.

Flanagan said Monday that the general public may not understand how often nurses and other health-care employees are assaulted at work.

“We need to protect these employees,” said Flanagan, who will testify during the hearing. “There is no justification for assaulting someone who is trying to help you. It’s appalling.”

Police responded to two reportedly violent assaults in the Emergency Department at HealthAlliance Hospital/Leominster last December.

In one incident, police arrested Joseph Murphy, 26, of Townsend, after he allegedly lunged at a nurse in a waiting room and repeatedly punched her in the face.

The hospital has since taken several measues to increase security, including increasing the number of security officers on staff and providing additional training, according to Mary Lourdes Burke, the hospital’s chief communications officer.

“We’ve also worked with Leominster Police Chief Peter Roddy to increase the police presence in and around the hospital,” Burke said. “We’ve adopted a zero-tolerance policy for violent crime at the hospital.”

Burke said the hospital is in full support of the proposed legislation and is working with members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Massachusetts Hospital Association to advocate for it.
“The safety of our patients and staff is a top priority at the hospital,” Burke said.

Mcguane said the hospital has done a good job improving security since the assaults last year.

“I think they have, but you still can’t control who comes in, so I think this legislation is important because at least it will increase the penalty when these assaults occur,” she said.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. will appear in Boston today to testify in favor of the proposed legislation.

Early said Monday that his office often hears about assaults against nurses.

“We’ve got to protect our nurses,” Early said. “Anyone who has been in a hospital knows how critical they are. It’s a vulnerable position.”

Early said many members of his family have served as nurses.

“This topic is especially close to me,” Early said. “I think this is good legislation and I’m fully in support of it.”

Nurse assault bill up today Hearings set for laws-to-be

BOSTON —  Nurses are getting beaten up all over — at least according to some law enforcement officials and one of the state’s largest nursing unions that are lining up to back a bill giving nurses special protections from assaults by patients.

The legislation would put people in jail for a minimum of 90 days and up to 2-1/2 years for assault and battery against registered nurses while they are providing health care. Currently state law allows sentences up to 2 1/2 years, but no minimum sentence for assault and battery convictions.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association cited a survey it conducted five years ago with the University of Massachusetts Labor Center in Amherst that concluded one in every two nurses was assaulted at work during a two-year period in Massachusetts. The union also maintained nurses are assaulted as often as police officers and prison guards.

The proposal to set up special penalties for assaulting registered nurses, sponsored by state Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury, is one of more than 200 proposed new laws covering illegal drugs, transgender discrimination, minimum gun purchases, and new protections for police, pets and children being heard in a single day today by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., and Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, are both backing the bill for minimum mandatory sentences for assaults on nurses.

MNA spokesman David Schildmeier said assaults on nurses are frequently not prosecuted and in cases where it is, judges have complete discretion over whether a jail sentence is imposed. “Very often judges will continue the case and nothing happens,” he said.

Mr. Schildmeier also said the union is working to change hospital policies to reduce tolerance of nurse abuse and attacks on nurses and to end past practices that discouraged nurses from seeking criminal complaints in cases where they have been assaulted by patients, visitors and families of patients.

He said while some medical institutions have viewed violence against nurses in the past as being “part of the job” the union has been educating nurses that they should prosecute assaults. “It is not part of the job to get punched,” he said.

The Committee is also taking public testimony on a bill by Gov. Deval L. Patrick to limit gun buyers to one firearm purchase per month, which is aimed at reducing trafficking in guns by “straw purchasers” who supply them to criminals and other prohibited buyers. Massachusetts would be the fourth state to adopt a one gun per month law.

The governor’s bill would also authorize the state to adopt the National Instant Criminal Background Check System improvements contained in a 2007 law adopted in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. That would require the state courts to transmit mental health adjudications and orders to the state criminal justice information system which in turn would provide the information to the U.S. attorney general, for the purposes of firearms licensing.

Other bills being heard include a ban on “devocalizing” dogs, several proposed changes in marijuana and in restraining order laws, and a bill to include transgender people under those protected within the state’s hate crime and discrimination laws. The hearing begins at noon with the committee reserving time between 2:30 and 6 p.m. for testimony on the transgender bill.