The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

NNU Nurses Testify in D.C. Today, Call for National Standard to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings

RNs Demand Occupational Safety and Health Administration Take Action to Save Lives


Today, Tuesday, January 10, at a public stakeholder meeting convened by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), registered nurse members of National Nurses United (NNU)--from states around the country--will demand that OSHA promptly pass regulations to prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings.

"Registered nurses urge OSHA to act immediately to help protect nurses and all healthcare workers, as well as patients and families, from violence in healthcare settings--a serious problem for far too long," said Jean Ross, a Minnesota registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United.

Workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry face extremely high rates of workplace violence. In 2014, 52 percent of all the incidents of workplace violence reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occurred against workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry. And the rates have been increasing; between 2005 and 2014, rates of workplace violence incidents have increased 110 percent in private industry hospitals.

Allysha Shin, a California registered nurse, and other members of NNU will speak out at OSHA's public stakeholder meeting on workplace violence in healthcare settings. Shin will testify about a December incident at her hospital where a patient was combative, attacking nurses and staff who had been assigned to her.

"The patient ripped out of her restraints, pulled out one of her IVs, tore her gown off, and got out of bed. She kicked me in the chest and stomach multiple times. It took approximately six people to re-restrain her to the chair," said Shin. "Were it not for the patient's loud screaming and cursing, my co-workers may not have known to come help me. The patient was also at risk of harm, and for 30 minutes, most of the nurses and other staff on the unit could not attend to their own highly acute patients because we did not have properly trained personnel from outside the unit who could help handle combative patients."

"Predictable and preventable violent incidents such as these should never occur," Shin continued. "As registered nurses, we all experience the fear and insecurity when our employers are unprepared to handle violent situations or unwilling to do what is required to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. OSHA must act swiftly to create a robust workplace violence prevention standard, because every day we wait, healthcare workers are placed at extreme risk of physical violence and psychological harm."

In 2014, California nurses stood strong to pass the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act, and regulations were ratified late last year to realize the law's goals. The act defines workplace violence broadly to encompass actual acts of violence, as well as the threat of violence, and requires employers to develop a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan emphasizing prevention, training, and worker participation.

"It should be mandatory that healthcare facilities have a preparedness plan in place to manage potential and actual violent situations to reduce the safety risks to nurses, other staff and the patient," said Minnesota RN Nora Simone Jordan, who will also be testifying at the meeting. "Additionally, for this plan to be effective, staff would have input, receive interactive education and training, and rehearse it regularly so that we are purposefully acting--not just reacting--to manage workplace violence."

"Workplace violence in healthcare settings is a national epidemic, and that's why these protections are necessary in every state. We fought hard to pass nation-leading regulations in California--and we will not stop fighting until we can ensure OSHA protects healthcare workers in the rest of the nation," said Bonnie Castillo, RN, NNU's Director of Health and Safety. "The health and safety of nurses and patients is at stake."

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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