Nurses to Marching Students: “We Stand With You,” As RNs Back Federal Bill to End Violence in Healthcare Workplaces

As nurses fight for the passage of HR 5223, a national bill to prevent violence in healthcare settings, we stand in solidarity with the students and teachers rising up to say “#NeverAgain” to violence in schools. In our shared struggle, we see a demand for greater public health and safety.

On Valentine’s Day, 17 students and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school lost their lives in a school shooting. Exactly one month later, a gunman walked into an Alabama hospital and shot dead a nurse, also wounding another employee. Schools are dedicated to learning, and hospitals are dedicated to healing — but what happens when violence shatters what should be a “safe” space?

Standing together, using the power of our collective voice, we must demand better.

To that end, nurses could not be more proud of the young people at the helm of this weekend’s March for Our Lives, leading a movement to say “#NeverAgain” to violence in schools. We stand in strong solidarity with this student-led fight, not only because we heal bodies broken by violence — but because violence also impacts our own health and safety at work.

In fact, healthcare workers are subject to rates of workplace violence higher than any other industry.

Allysha Shin, RN, describes being attacked by a patient.

In our own movement to “demand better,” nurses applaud the recent introduction of the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act, HR 5223, by Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17). With the support of 14 other members of Congress, this bill does something critical: it mandates that healthcare employers have a plan in place to prevent violence in healthcare settings (as overseen by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

To grasp the importance of this act, it’s critical to remember that when nurses aren’t safe, our patients and their families are also not safe. And between 2011 and 2016, at least 58 hospital workers died as a result of workplace violence, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that health care workers at inpatient facilities were 5 to 12 times more likely to experience nonfatal workplace violence than workers overall.

While we cannot rewind time to erase nurse injuries which have already already occurred — or to bring back nurses who have been killed on the job (including our sister Cynthia Palomata, RN, who was fatally struck in the head by a patient), we can demand that our employers do everything in their power to protect us from violence before it happens.

An RN after being assaulted by a patient at work. Read her story here.

That means having a comprehensive plan in place, including assessment of each facility and unit’s specific needs, measures to prevent violence from ever occurring in the first place (especially including safe staffing so that nurses are not left without adequate support), and training for all staff on exactly what to do in the event of a violent incident.

The Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act seeks to do just that. The best part? We know that healthcare workers can win this fight for better protections — because at the state level, we already have.

The new federal bill is modeled after nation-leading legislation California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) nurses already fought for and won in California. On April 1, 2018, California healthcare employers who don’t have a workplace violence prevention plan in place will be breaking the law (stay tuned for more on the California law in an upcoming post).

We thank our congress members who are leading the way on this critical legislation to prevent violence in healthcare settings. And on the eve of March for our Lives, nurses also thank our students, the young people of this country, for taking the lead on a mass movement to end violence in our schools.

Nurses to students: We stand with you.

We see that in our shared struggle, there is a collective demand for a culture that prioritizes public health and safety. And we also know that together, with the resonant voice of the people, we can make that healthier world a reality. Now, today, before one more life is shattered by violence.

For more information on nurses’ solidarity with students: