Press Release

Urgently Needed Hospital Workplace Violence Prevention Bill Moves Forward

CA nurses mobilize to win passage into law
Registered nurses applauded the approval of a bill that steps up violence-prevention policies in California hospitals, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, who sponsored the bill, announced today.  
Senate Bill 1299, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, was approved in a vote today in the Senate Labor Committee.  It next goes to the Senate Health Committee on April 30. The issue gained greater urgency this week due to the stabbings of two registered nurses at two separate Los Angeles-area hospitals.

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The bill would require the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt standards requiring hospitals to establish workplace violence prevention plans to protect healthcare workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.

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.  
Two examples cited in the hearing occurred at a Kaiser Sacramento’s intensive care unit and on a general medical-surgical floor.
“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 was present at the hearing and 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.”
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.
Similar legislation sponsored by CNA last year was derailed due to heavy opposition from the hospital industry.