The Massachusetts Nurses Association is pushing a state bill that would mandate plans to protect employees from workplace violence.
Union President Donna Kelly-Williams and several other members are testifying Tuesday at a Massachusetts state hearing on the bill. Elizabeth Dalton, a nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, will testify about her experience dealing with the irate father of a dying patient who threatened her with a knife, a situation she argues could have been prevented if the hospital had a better handle on the father.
“My purpose for testifying is to help,” Dalton said. “I want to provide good care. I want to give everything I have to my patient. This scared me beyond anything I've ever been scared about.”
The proposal from the union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, calls for facilities to perform a risk assessment of current conditions and safeguards, come up with a plan to train employees and prevent escalations, and assign a senior manager and in-house crisis response team to intervene in violent situations and provide support to employee-victims.
The bill requires that these plans be made in conjunction with employees and labor officials.
This comes not long after Massachusetts General Hospital surgeon Dr. Michael Davidson was shot and killed by a man who was upset with his mother's medical treatment under Davidson.
The bill also follows an increased focus on healthcare workplace violence at the federal and state levels. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has done a significant amount of educational outreach on the subject and recently announced that inspectors will now evaluate whether facilities have implemented industry-recognized safeguards to prevent workplace violence. It could penalize facilities that fail to take preventive or corrective measures.
Massachusetts already has an increased fine for assaulting nurses and other healthcare workers, and North Carolina has made it a felony to assault hospital personnel, effective in December. The American Nurses Association has been tracking legislation in a number of states that assess higher penalties for assaulting healthcare workers or require hospitals to have prevention plans in place.
The Massachusetts Hospital Association says its hospitals are serious about curbing workplace violence, but argues that the union bill offers the same protections as a rule put in place this year by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. That rule requires providers to create and annually update a workplace violence prevention and crisis response plan. Pat Noga, MHA's vice president for clinical affairs, said in a statement that the union legislation is “redundant” and could “lead to confusion, not clarity.”
“The imposition of duplicative requirements that ignore ongoing efforts throughout the hospital community offer no benefit to anyone,” Noga said. ”That is why the MHA strongly supports hospitals' efforts to address workplace violence while opposing the union's bill.”