Deadly Tulsa Hospital Shooting Renews Urgency for Stronger Violence Protection for Massachusetts Nurses and Healthcare Professionals as MNA Legislation Advances in House and Senate
BOSTON, Mass. – Massachusetts lawmakers advanced key healthcare violence prevention legislation the day after a gunman killed four people at Tulsa's Saint Francis Hospital campus on Wednesday, a horrific act that reminded nurses and healthcare professionals of local violence and sparked a renewed sense of urgency for stronger protections at healthcare facilities.
“Nurses and healthcare professionals have been dedicating themselves to safely caring for patients while suffering from an epidemic of violence for many years,” said Katie Murphy, a practicing ICU nurse, and President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Here in Massachusetts, we know all too well the potential for deadly violence in healthcare that was inflicted on innocent people in Tulsa. We know the pain of the victims and their families, we grieve with them, and we call for stronger protections for everyone in healthcare."
Massachusetts representatives recommended on Thursday, June 2 that legislation filed on behalf of the MNA – An Act requiring health care employers to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence – be passed favorably out of committee and sent to House Ways and Means. The House bill is very similar to Senate legislation bearing the same name that lawmakers advanced to the Senate Ways and Means committee on March 31.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Joan Lovely and Representative Denise Garlick, would:
- Require healthcare employers to perform an annual safety risk assessment and, based on those findings, develop, and implement programs to minimize the danger of workplace violence to employees and patients.
- Provide time off for health care workers assaulted on the job to address legal issues.
- Allows nurses and healthcare professionals to use their health care facility address instead of their home address to handle legal issues related to an assault.
- Require semiannual reporting of assaults on health care employees to District Attorneys.
Stats on Healthcare Violence
- In the 2022 State of Nursing in Massachusetts – a randomized survey of registered nurses across the Commonwealth – nurses said they were increasingly concerned about workplace violence. There was an 11-point uptick in nurses calling violence a “major challenge” from 2021 to 2022 and a 16-point increase from 2019.
- In the State of Nursing survey, 38% of nurses said workplace violence was such as challenge that it would impact their decision to leave the profession sooner.
- An April 2022 survey by National Nurses United found a 119% increase in reports of violence from nurses between March 2021 to March 2022.
- On average, 44 workplace homicides to private healthcare workers occurred each year from 2016 through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Nurses and nurses’ aides are assaulted more than police officers and prison guards, according to a 2017 OSHA report.
- The American College of Emergency Physicians reports nearly 7 out of 10 emergency physicians believe that emergency department violence is increasing and nearly 80% of these physicians acknowledged that these events have taken a toll on patients.
- Following the Tulsa shooting, on June 3, a well-known registered nurse on Twitter encouraged healthcare workers to share their stories of violence in the workplace and quickly received more than 1,000 replies.
Local Healthcare Violence
- Last October, WBUR reported that two to three Massachusetts General Hospital nurses are assaulted every day.
- In July 2021, a Lowell General Hospital nurse was severely assaulted in the emergency department, hit in the head with a fire extinguisher by a patient. WHDH reported that than 70% of emergency department nurses report being assaulted during their careers.
- Two months later, WHDH reported on a “troubling rise in patient violence” in Massachusetts emergency departments.
- In June 2017, Harrington Hospital nurse Elise Wilson was stabbed multiple times. The attack nearly killed Wilson, who required surgery. She later supported MNA workplace violence legislation along with her husband and colleagues.
- In January 2015, Dr. Michael J. Davidson was killed in a murder/suicide shooting at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The tragedy prompted Brigham nurses to press for improved protections at their hospital, enlisting OSHA and fighting at the bargaining table during a negotiation campaign that nearly resulted in a strike in June 2016.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.