News & Events

A nurse is NOT a punching bag

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September 2009 Edition

On July 14 the Joint Committee on Judiciary held a hearing at the State House on An Act Relative to Assault and Battery on Health Care Providers (S.1753/H.1696), sponsored by Rep. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury).

This bill addresses the growing crisis in the health and safety of RNs and other health professionals, who suffer violent assaults at a rate 12 times higher than in other industries. Violence against nurses can be perpetrated by patients, families, friends or visitors (including gang members). In fact, nurses are assaulted at work on a par with police officers and prison guards, yet oftentimes no action is taken against those who attack nurses.

The bill would enhance the penalties against anyone who assaults a nurse while s/he is providing health care. These enhanced penalties would match the penalties currently in place for someone who assaults an EMT or an ambulance driver. Nurses deserve those same protections.

Several law enforcement officials including Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early and Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating testified in favor of this legislation. The committee also heard from MNA nurses from all over the commonwealth. We will let their comments speak for themselves.

“At Brockton Hospital, where I work, in the 12 month period ending in May of 2007, there were three calls per day to 911 from inside the hospital. After two years of aggressively pressuring management to address this problem, the situation at Brockton is now somewhat better, but we are still averaging between one and two calls to the police per day from inside my hospital.”

— Kathy Metzger, RN

“You must understand that we as emergency room nurses have no control over who comes through our doors. Patients and their families have a host of illnesses, injuries, grief, anger and anxiety. Nurses need every protection possible and currently have little to none. After my assault, many people called me a victim. I refuse to accept that title. I am a survivor.”

— Tina DeMar, RN

Karen Coughlin provides her testimony.


“I have been a victim of workplace violence. A client who towered over me at 6’4” and weighed approximately 275 pounds attempted to assault me. He had already assaulted another client on the unit, and had set off locked door alarms. That night, I was in fear of my life, and I believe that if I had not had called for extra staff to be on the unit, I would not be here.”

—Karen Coughlin, RN

“Two years ago I was assaulted by a patient. The patient had approached the nurses’ station where I was working to ask if she could be given her knitting needles. My colleague at the desk said that she could not knit at that particular time. The patient responded in an explosive rage. She charged around the desk right at the moment when I happened to be coming out of a supply closet behind the nurses’ station. I backed up in an effort to protect myself from the charging patient, but she managed to grab a handful of my hair and throw me to the floor under the nurses’ station desk.”

—Jennifer Fitzgerald, RN

“I love my job, and I want everyone to know that part of my job does not include being punched, slapped, kicked or spit on. The passage of this bill will, at the very least, give warning to the public, many of whom do feel that it is acceptable to assault their nurse, that it is not and that there are strict penalties for doing so.”

—Carol McGuane, RN

“It is time for these individuals to be held accountable for their behavior and time for health care workers to have some recourse regarding our safety.”


—Ellen Farley, RN

“I cannot stand idly by while my colleagues and I are constantly in fear for our safety or those that we care for. I have been kicked, punched, spit at, sworn at and intimidated. This is not why I went into nursing. I wanted to make a difference in the life of someone.”

—Maria Cormier, RN

“I was attacked by a 40-year-old male patient brought in by ambulance with police on scene. The patient was angry, difficult to control and had severe bleeding from his neck wound. As the trauma team began to assess the wound the patient sat up and turned in my direction and punched me in the face. Stunned and shaken, I was brought into another room for treatment. No broken bones just badly bruised. I did not think to press charges, nor was I encouraged to do so.”

—Linda Condon, RN

Kathy Gill, left, Julia Rodriguez and Charlene Richardson (behind).
Massachusetts Nurse


“I have been a nurse for over 19 years and two years ago I was physically assaulted and now my outlook has totally changed. As a nurse, I have given 150 percent but in return I received nothing: no support whatsoever. Under no circumstances does a patient ever, ever have a right to put a hand on a nurse.”

— Kathy Gill, RN



 “I am a nurse and a Boston firefighter and EMT. I don’t understand why, if attacked, I receive protection and support outside on the street but when I enter a hospital as an ER nurse none of that protection follows me.”

— Julia Rodriguez, RN

“In 2003, I was brutally, viciously beaten by a patient. It took 16 months to indict him. The hospital that I worked for strongly encouraged me to not pursue charges because the patient was a customer.”

— Charlene Richardson, RN