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For health care workers, the risk of violence is part of the job

Bills in the Pennsylvania Legislature aim to address a growing problem.

Too often, health care workers need care themselves due to on-the-job violence.
Too often, health care workers need care themselves due to on-the-job violence.Read moremeshaphoto / Getty Images

As patients, we expect—and should demand—safety and respect when we go to the hospital or doctor’s office.

What about the people who work there? Can they expect the same from patients and visitors?

Increasingly, the answer appears to be “not always.” Workplace violence serious enough to require time off from work is four times more likely in health care and social assistance sectors than in private industry.

Here, two nurses who work in Pennsylvania tell their stories.

Health care leaders are well aware of the problem and are doing their best to improve the situation. They are encouraging staff to report such incidents and providing training on de-escalation techniques.

Many hospitals have rapid response teams, on call 24/7 and skilled at mitigating potentially violent situations. Other kinds of teams debrief staff after physical or verbal abuse and provide support as needed.

State government can help too. Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering two measures that would provide protections for hospital employees.

Senate Bill 351 and its companion legislation in the House would increase the penalty for an assault on a health care practitioner while on duty. Instead of being a misdemeanor, as it is now for some heath care professionals, it would be a felony.

House Bills 39 and 1880 and their companion legislation in the Senate would allow for the omission of employees’ last names from hospital name badges. This would make it more difficult for ill-intentioned patients to harass or stalk hospital employees.

You can learn more about these legislative efforts by clicking here. Health care settings should be safe and respectful for people who give care, as well as those who receive it.

Andy Carter is president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.