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Assaults in Health Care Are Felonies in Some States

As violent incidents in hospitals continue to grow, some nurses are taking a stand, as evidenced by a recent article about staff in the emergency rooms.


Though the nurses and health care workers who were interviewed for the story believe the needs of the patient should come first, they don’t feel it should be at the cost of their own safety, and rightfully so. As a result, many nurses are now seeking stiffer penalties in assault cases and states are getting tougher on these violent crimes. In fact, the Emergency Nurses Association’s general assembly just voted 645 to 2 to support felony laws for assaulting a nurse. Twenty-six states now apply tougher penalties for assaults against health care workers, and some states already consider these assaults felonies.


What is causing this increase? According to the article, as hospitals admit a higher number of patients who are drug addicts, alcoholics, or psychiatric patients, the level of violent incidents is increasing. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that the number of emergency room visits for drug and alcohol related incidents grew from 1.6 million in 2005 to almost 2 million in 2008.


It is also partially due to the economy. States are decreasing funding, closing mental health hospitals, and ending addiction programs and other services, leading to an increase of emergency room patients that might have sought care elsewhere previously.


I hope these more serious penalties send a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Through continued violence prevention and workplace safety training, we can decrease the number of these assaults. We cannot allow violent incidents to occur in a place where people go to feel safe and heal from sickness and injury.


You can read more about this issue in Violent Assaults on ER Nurses Rise as Programs Cut.


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