Growing Threat of Violence in Health Care Not Taken Seriously By Employers, Demands Legislative Solution Joint Committee to Hold Feb. 4 Hearing on Senate Bill


What:  Senate Bill 1313, An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement                Plans to Prevent Workplace Violence; Senate Sponsor James E. Timilty, D-Walpole;         House Bill 1687, Sponsor former representative now Senator Mike Brady, D-Brockton

When:        Thursday, Feb. 4 at 10 a.m.

Where:       State House, Room B1

Who:           Karen Coughlin, Vice President of Massachusetts Nurses Association and RN with     Department of Mental Health at Taunton State Hospital; Kathy Metzger, RN, retired Brockton Hospital, MNA Board of Directors; Patricia Powers, OR RN and MNA Chair at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Daniel Linskey, former Boston Police Chief, Managing Director at international security firm Kroll; Ellen Farley, RN at Taunton State Hospital, victim of workplace violence

CANTON, Mass – Violence against nurses and other health care professionals is rising, but as shown in a new survey by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, most nurses say their employers are not taking adequate steps to prevent assaults and support workers when they are attacked.

Of the more than 220 union and non-union nurses surveyed, 83 percent said they feared or anticipated violence or abusive events on the job in the past two years. Nearly 50 percent have been punched, spit on, groped, kicked or otherwise assaulted or abused. Yet only 19 percent of nurses say their employer was supportive and tried to find solutions after they experienced violence.

The answer, according to the nurses surveyed, is a comprehensive set of workplace violence prevention and response programs of the kind proposed in An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence (S.1313/H.1687).

“A hospital should be a place where patients go to heal and nurses and other health care professionals are able to provide care in a safe environment,” said MNA Vice President Karen Coughlin, a registered nurse with the Department of Mental Health at Taunton State Hospital and a victim of workplace violence. “Unfortunately, hospitals are growing increasingly violent for both employees and patients. This bill will take steps toward making hospitals safer.”

Frontline nurses and a former Boston Police Chief will speak to the need for a legislative remedy before members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 4 at 10 a.m.

Among the bill’s components:

  • Requires health care employers to perform annual risk assessments in cooperation with employees to identify factors which may put employees at risk for workplace violence
  • Requires hospitals to look at factors like working hours, public access to the area, working in high-crime areas, staffing levels and other factors that affect safety
  •  Requires hospitals to then  develop a written violence prevention plan and put measures in place to minimize risks
  • Requires the creation of an in-house crisis response team to support victims of workplace violence

A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that between 2012 and 2014 incidents of violence “nearly doubled for nurses and nurse assistants.” Violence against health care workers accounts for nearly as many injuries as in all other industries combined, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

That is at a rate five times greater than the average worker in our country, with nurses experiencing more non-fatal incidents of workplace violence than against the police or corrections officers.

“But this is not just about data. This is also about people,” Coughlin said. “My colleagues and I have experienced: a broken collarbone, a whiplash injury from being ‘jerked around’ by the hair with such force the staff member did not return to work for almost one year, a strangulation that came dangerously close to death, a kick to the chest that resulted in back spasms, bruised ribs and the need for months of physical therapy. I have six colleagues who will never return to work because of the trauma they experienced in just my workplace alone. A hospital should be a place where patients go to heal and nurses and other health care professionals are able to provide care in a safe environment.”