Massachusetts to crack down on violence against healthcare workers

A bill stiffening penalties for those who assault nurses and other healthcare workers won unanimous approval in the Massachusetts Senate last Thursday, following a unanimous House vote in March. One of a series of measures against workplace violence being promoted by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the law will treat any assault against a healthcare provider while administering medical care as a separate crime with its own set of penalties, as it currently does for emergency medical technicians, according to an MNA press release.

MNA Vice President Karen Coughlin, RN, said she has been a victim of several assaults during her years working at one of the state's mental health facilities. "Patients, family members and others must get the message that violence against healthcare workers will be treated seriously," Coughlin said.

Coughlin is hardly alone in her experience or sentiments, with up to half of the nurses participating in recent studies reporting being punched, pinched, scratched, or otherwise assaulted on the job-on par with workplace violence toward police officers and prison guards.

And the problem is not limited to the United States or even to nurses, as a recent study reveals that 98 percent of family physicians in Canada had been subjected to at least one incident of minor abuse, such as name calling or threats, during their career, reports The Vancouver Sun. Moreover, 39 percent of the 770 respondents said they'd been victimized more severely by being punched, kicked, sexually assaulted or even stalked.

Dr. Trevor Theman, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, said his organization offers guidelines for doctors to terminate a working relationship with a patient when the safety of doctors or staff is in jeopardy.

To learn more:
- check out this press release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association
- read this piece in The Vancouver Sun