Data shows that nurses have the highest risk of becoming a victim to workplace assault, and the average annual rate for nonfatal violent crime is nearly double for nurses compared to other occupations. A study by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) also found that an astounding 86% of emergency room nurses had been physically assaulted at work. 86%!
In addition, ANA reported that only 20% of nurses felt safe on a daily basis. Nurses shouldn’t have to come to work in fear, and shouldn’t be forced to leave a profession they love because of safety concerns.
These statistics pointed to a nationwide fear epidemic among nurses, and it became apparent that our profession needed protected. To address the problem in Ohio, members of both ONA and the Ohio ENA lead the way to pass a workplace violence law.
After months of expert testimony and stories from victimized nurses, Ohio’s Workplace Violence law passed and became law in 2012.
Prior to the advocacy efforts of ONA and Ohio ENA members, Ohio law only spoke to increased assault penalties for police, fire fighters and EMS workers. Now, Ohio law protects nurses and healthcare workers through increased fines and penalties.
The Fines and Penalties
As we mentioned, Ohio law only previously spoke to increased assault penalties for police, fire and EMS workers. But what about the nurse when an assaulter needing medical attention is transported to the ER? This, along with the mounds of staggering statistics, served as our members’ argument for stiffer fines and penalties.
Following the mantra of ‘violence isn’t part of the job,’ nurses were able to secure:
- A fine increase from up to $1,000 to up to $5,000 for an assault against a health care worker.
- A penalty increase from a misdemeanor to a 5th degree felony when the offender has previously been convicted of an assault against a healthcare worker.
Are there exceptions?
The law states that the health care worker must be doing their job, which is a common sense caveat that prevents the law from extending to when a nurse is in a non-work setting.
The assaulter must also know that the person is indeed a healthcare worker. Nurses wear identification at all times, thus the assaulter would know that he/she is a healthcare worker.
Does the hospital have to do anything?
The hospital must offer de-escalation training and/or crisis intervention training. The training teaches nurses how to respond when faced with a potentially dangerous or threatening situation. De-escalation training includes verbal tactics to prevent harm, or additional harm, during a hostile situation. The Nurse Path lists great de-escalation skills for nurses.
The law also authorizes hospitals to post a warning sign. The sign could say that abuse or assault of staff will not be tolerated and might result in a felony conviction. This isn’t a requirement of the law, but we do encourage hospitals to post some type of warning sign. Not only does it show respect for nurses and other staff, but it could also serve as a deterrent during an escalating situation.
It’s important for nurses to be informed about this law and know their rights. Violence isn’t part of your job, and the ‘culture of silence’ must be broken among nurses. Remember that it isn’t OK to be assaulted, that it’s your right to report an incident, and that Ohio law now recognizes that this epidemic must be stopped.
Because of the successful efforts of ONA and Ohio ENA members, Ohio law now reflects stiffer penalties for those who assault healthcare workers. First time offenders can be fined up to $5,000, and repeat offenders can be charged with a 5th degree felony.
In addition to increased fines and penalties, Hospitals are now authorized to post warning signs and offer de-escalation training. If your employer doesn’t already have a sign, encourage them to post at least one in a conspicuous area. Depending on the facility, participation in de-escalation training may be voluntary. We highly encourage nurse participation. The training will teach you tactics to use when responding to a hostile situation.
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