Nursing Notes

January 5, 2010

Ohio lawmaker to propose harsher penalties for assault of nurses in workplace

I cannot believe that this is up for discussion.  As a nurse, and especially as a psychiatric nurse, I can tell you stories from first hand experience–both my own and others on my team–of violence against nursing staff.  I have even seen nursing staff killed by a patient.  Why is it deemed okay to assault someone who is trying to help you?  Why is it seen as “part of the job” to have your patient assault you with the intent to do major bodily harm to you?  It doesn’t really matter if we are talking psychiatric or medical patients.  Neither scenario is acceptable.

When the recent topic of the WWF fighter in the ER assaulting all those staff was being everywhere–online and on television, I really felt for the staff who had to deal with such an experience.  I can only hope that the hospital got them some support and treatment–at no cost to them–for such a violent exposure in the workplace.


December 30, 2009 by Brandon Glenn

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Rep. Denise DriehausRep. Denise Driehaus

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A state representative plans to introduce in early 2010 legislation that would increase the punishment for assaulting nurses in the workplace.

Rep. Denise Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, said she plans to introduce the legislation in January or early February, though many details remain to be worked out.

Last month, the newly elected president of the 8,800-member Ohio Nurses Association called the proposal the organization’s highest legislative priority in an interview with MedCity News.

Currently, the punishment for assaulting a nurse in the workplace ranges from a misdemeanor to a “lesser felony,” Driehaus said. The new proposal could reclassify the crime as a fourth-degree felony, though Driehaus said she has not yet decided on the level of punishment she’ll seek. Those convicted of fourth-degree felonies are subject to fines of up to $5,000 and prison terms of between six and 18 months, according to the Cleveland Law Library Association.

It’s unclear how much of a problem workplace violence against nurses in Ohio actually is. Neither Driehaus nor the Ohio Nurses Association were aware of any statistics on the matter. Also unclear is how many states have passed laws that deal specifically with workplace violence against nurses. Massachusetts lawmakers proposed a law earlier this year making such crimes punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and jail time up to two-and-half years, or both, the Gloucester Times reported.

Adam Sachs of the American Nurses Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Regardless, Driehaus said the law would act as a deterrent. “Not only is it about the increased penalty, it also means something to [the Ohio Nurses Association] that it protects them,” she said.

A 2004 study in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing called workplace violence “one of the most complex and dangerous occupational hazards facing nurses.”  The study said that stems in part from a culture in the health industry that is “resistant to the notion” that providers are at-risk for violence at the hands of patients.

Driehaus said she’s still considering whether to propose the legislation as its own separate bill, or tack it on as an amendment to House Bill 265, which she sponsored. That bill seeks to impose the same criminal penalties for assaulting a resident participating in a uniformed police volunteer program as are imposed for assaulting a peace officer.

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