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States Address Workplace Violence Via Legislation

Publish Date: June 29, 2016


Unfortunately workplace violence and bullying are recurring in nursing. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a report that highlighted the prevalence. OSHA found 21 percent of registered nurses and nursing students reported being physically assaulted, and more than 50 percent were verbally abused (a category that included bullying) in a 12-month period. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, classifies workplace violence into four types, with Types II and III usually found in the health care setting. Type II involves a customer, client, or patient. In this type, an “individual has a relationship with the business and becomes violent while receiving services.” Type III violence involves a “worker-on-worker” relationship and includes “employees who attack or threaten another employee.” Both classes remain high, although serious violent incidents leading to time away from work continue to be caused by patients at much higher rates than co-workers.

Because of the negative consequences of workplace violence to both registered nurses and patients, AORN supports legislative and regulatory initiatives for safe perioperative work environments and accountable patient safety cultures. Regrettably, there is no federal measure requiring workplace protections; however, several states have sought legislative solutions. These legislative solutions include the establishment of a comprehensive prevention program for health care employers, as well as increased penalties for those convicted of assaults of a nurse and / or other health care personnel.

Seven states currently require employer run workplace violence programs while 34 states have penalties for assaulting nurses. A perioperative nurse and AORN member led the recent legislative effort in Idaho that made it a felony to assault a health care worker, including nurses. Several states have recently introduced legislation to address workplace violence in the health care industry, with many of the proposed bills following ANA’s model legislation requiring health care entities to establish programs to protect health care workers from acts of violence.

AORN expects legislation to be introduced addressing workplace violence in the 2017 sessions. If you are interested in getting involved with these legislative efforts, please contact Danielle Glover, AORN Government Affairs Manager.