Workplace Violence

Massachusetts enacted a new law that increases the penalties for assaulting a nurse on the job. Nurses face the same level of risk for workplace violence as police officers and prison guards. EMTs already enjoyed protection against assaults. This law now extends those rules to nurses.

The statistics of abuse horrify. Fifty percent of emergency room nurses reported being punched in the previous two years. In all the news coverage, however, the reports never address who is inflicting the violence. I suppose we are to understand that unruly patients are to blame. Isn’t it also possible that the perpetrators could be other health service workers?

BU’s Medical School has an Appropriate Treatment in Medicine initiative that tracks abuse against medical students. From what I understand, the most frequent culprits are older residents who mistreat younger students. It’s conceivable that nurses face physical abuse from their co-workers. The new law can only hope to have a deterrent effect. In reality, it might still require the nurse to report a supervisor or physician for punishment.


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