News & Events

News Coverage of House Passage of Workplace Violence Bill

Springfield Republican
Bill to punish people convicted of assaulting health care workers clears Mass. House
By Dan Ring, The Republican

March 31, 2010, 6:45PM

BOSTON – Donna L. Stern, of Northampton, a registered nurse in a mental health unit at the Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, said she has been punched, kicked, almost strangled and spit on during her five years as a nurse.

Pushed by Stern and other nurses, the state House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 155-0 to approve a bill that sets specific punishments for those convicted of assaulting health care workers.

The vote came after about 200 nurses arrived on Beacon Hill and lobbied legislators to pass the bill. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

Stern said there is no statewide consistent way of supporting nurses who are assaulted. Baystate Franklin does have a new policy that spells out steps to respond to violence, but other hospitals may lack such policies, she added.

“That’s why this assault bill has to pass,” said Stern, who was accompanied by Jane L. Laferriere, of Orange, and Iris V. Rasku, of Greenfield, also both registered nurses at Baystate Franklin. “We need this assault bill.”

Not all assaults stem from a patient’s illness, she said. “I’ve worked with patients who knew better, who definitely knew better,” Stern said.

The bill adds registered nurses, nurse psychologists, physicians, physical and occupational therapists and other health care workers to an existing law for protecting emergency medical technicians, ambulance operators and attendants assaulted in the line of duty. Under the bill, people who are convicted of assaulting nurses or other health workers would be punished by 90 days to 2.5 years in jail or by a fine.

“Nurses deserve this protection,” said Rep. Sean F. Curran, D-Springfield. “They are on the front lines and sometimes deal with people who are violent.”


Patriot Ledger
By Amanda Fakhreddine

Posted Apr 01, 2010 @ 03:52 AM


Karen Coughlin has horror stories that span the 26 years she’s worked as a psychiatric nurse for the state Department of Mental Health.

“I’ve been punched, kicked, scratched, bit and had furniture thrown at me,” said Coughlin, who also serves as vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Coughlin’s experience was not unique to the 250 nurses who rallied at the State House on Wednesday to support legislation that would strengthen penalties against patients and visitors who assault nurses. The House passed the bill unanimously and extended the bill to include all health care workers.

Sandy Eaton, who works at Quincy Medical Center, said assaults sometimes happen when nurses try to stop the patients from hurting themselves or because they are inebriated.

“Thankfully, I’ve never had to have medical treatment from any assaults,” said Eaton. “But I’ve been kicked, and patients have attempted to bite me.”

Linda Condon, who lives in Brockton and works as a nurse in the emergency department at Morton Hospital in Taunton, told the supporters about multiple cases where her patient had physically assaulted her.

“I was sucker punched in the face,” said Condon as many people gasped and nodded their heads.

However, the bill also has some mental health care advocates worried.

“We are all for promoting the safety of nurses in the workplace,” said Susan Fendell, senior attorney at the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, which assists people with mental disabilities legally and protects their rights. “However, we are concerned about any bill that criminalizes any action that is caused by mental illness.”

The bill does not specifically say how patients with mental illnesses will be prosecuted, but does say that “whoever commits an assault or assault and battery” on a health care worker will be punished by 90 days to 2 1/2 years in prison, or fined between $500 and $5,000, or both.

“It seems to be redirecting people who should be treated by the mental health system to the legal system. There is no reason to clog up the courts,” Fendell said. “These are people who should be taken care of, rather than criminalized.”

But Coughlin said competency laws are already in place to protect mentally ill patients. The bill, she said, targets purposeful assaults.

“This bill sends the message that it’s not OK to assault nurses,” Coughlin said.


Nurses rally for workplace safety
Bill would protect all industry workers

Current state law allows for specific penalties against patients who assault first-responders such as EMTs or ambulance drivers.

A bill making its way through the House and Senate would expand the law to cover all health care professionals. Patients who assault a health care worker could face up to 2½ years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Nurses will also rally today in support of other bills that would require hospitals to develop programs to curb workplace violence.

The House is expected to vote today on the assault and battery on health care providers bill. 

When emergency room nurse Linda Condon stepped between a psychiatric patient and the nurse he just kicked, she ended up the recipient of a head butt.

It was just another day on the job for Condon, who, over her 28 years as a nurse, has been punched, pinched and slapped by patients.

But, Condon, a nurse at Morton and Norwood hospitals, said there is something wrong with violence she and other nurses experience on a regular basis.

“It’s not a part of my job to get beaten up,” she said.

Today, Condon will join hundreds of other nurses from across Massachusetts at a State House rally in support of bills they say will help curb assaults on health care professionals.

Condon’s not alone in her experience of workplace assaults.

A 2007 study by the Emergency Nurses Association, an Illinois-based nurses group, found that more than half of nurses surveyed said they experienced physical violence on the job.

Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association call the assaults a “growing crisis” in the health care industry.

As Ellen MacInnis, a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, tried to put an IV into a HIV-infected patient, the patient took a swing at MacInnis, dislodging the IV and spraying blood in her face, mouth and eyes.

MacInnis said she went on a drug regiment and was out of work for months.

“The hospital is the one place where, when you show up there, we have to take you in. The behavior that we see, in any other place … people would be thrown out,” she said.


Boston Herald
What the doctor ordered
By Colneth Smiley Jr.

Thursday, April 1, 2010 – Updated 10h ago

They care. They converged. They conquered.

Bay State lawmakers passed legislation to stiffen penalties for those who assault health-care workers as more than 250 nurses – many of whom said they are victims of workplace violence – rallied at the State House yesterday to push for the bill’s passage.

“Being assaulted is not acceptable, and health-care workers need to be protected as they do their jobs,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Recent studies show that health-care workers are confronted with on-the-job violence as often as police officers and prison guards. The bill will create programs to prevent workplace violence and penalize perpetrators effectively.

“This is an important first step in our effort to make health-care settings safer for nurses and for patients,” Kelly-Williams said.