Model IR400 Point IR Combustible Gas DetectorRegistered nurses are among those keeping close watch on a California measure to protect the state’s healthcare workers from work-related violence as it moves from one Senate committee to another this week.

Senate Bill 1299 -- which would strengthen a current law that requires hospitals to establish injury prevention programs -- has already been approved by the state’s Senate Labor Committee. Now it goes to the Senate Health Committee. The measure was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

Workplace assaults frequent

It gained urgency recently with the unrelated stabbings of two registered nurses at two separate Los Angeles-area hospitals. The attacks were not isolated incidents; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and social service workers are nearly five times more likely to suffer workplace assaults than workers in all other major industries combined.

Under SB 1299, hospitals would be required to have policies that include systems to improve hospital security and appropriate staffing to reduce the potential for violent incidents. Sufficient staffing and security personnel are major preventive measures. Hospitals would also be required to provide education and training programs for recognizing and responding to violence, and would be prohibited from retaliation against employees who seek help from law enforcement.
Additionally the law would step up the requirement for hospitals to document and report incidents of violence to Cal/OSHA and would require Cal/OSHA to post a report on its website containing information regarding violent incidents at hospitals and to make recommendations on how to prevent violent incidents at hospitals.

A continuing concern

Workplace violence is a continuing concern in California hospitals, nurses say, putting RNs, other hospital workers, and hospital patients, families, and visitors in danger.

“Violence against RNs and other healthcare workers has spread beyond the emergency room and psychiatric units, where the majority of incidents have previously occurred, to involve most nursing departments throughout the hospital,” according to the CAN, which said two recent incidents of endangered healthcare workers at a Kaiser Sacramento hospital show why stronger protections are needed.

No action taken to protect the staff

“There was a patient in a critical care unit who had sustained severe injuries and whose family was acting extremely aggressively toward the staff, making it difficult to care for the patient,” said Catherine Kennedy, a Kaiser Roseville neonatal natal intensive care RN who is on the CNA/NNU Board of Directors. “The sheriff had to be called, but no action was taken to remove the family from the hospital or the unit to protect the staff.”
“Management downplayed the staffs’ fears, and no formal communication or plan was presented to nursing to address a prevention policy for future incidents. The other occurrence happened on a medical-surgical floor when a violent patient physically assaulted a security guard.”
“There is a critical need to have standards and protections that apply for all nurses and healthcare workers throughout the hospital, not just areas deemed by administration to be high-risk areas. Most RNs are used to treating patients with chronic illness and have no real training on how to deescalate an unstable violent patient.”
The CAN said similar legislation was derailed last year “due to heavy opposition from the hospital industry.”