ENA President AnnMarie Papa, RN, says she's happy with the strengthened protections for healthcare workers, and she's hopeful that more states will enact ENA model legislation that makes penalties for assaults on healthcare workers the same as assaults on police officers and firefighters.
She's quick, however, to call for more proactive measures that identify security risks in hospitals and other healthcare facilities before the violence occurs, and training programs that allow for healthcare professionals to defuse potentially violent encounters. Many of the ENA suggestions can be found in its workplace violence prevention tool kit.
"Most importantly, you need to have an organizational buy-in," says Papa, who is also interim director of emergency nursing at The Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. "Zero tolerance is probably the one single most important factor for nurses. When we see that we know our organization is standing with us. We know they are on the front line, maybe not physically, but they are there to help us deal with these issues."
Papa says more and more hospitals are also doing a better job supporting their employees who've been assaulted on the job, although she says much work in that area remains to be done.
"If someone gets hurt at work, they break their ankle or there is a chemical splash, they have workers comp and other support. But often violence is overlooked as a worker's compensation issue. They have to use their vacation time or sick time to take time off," Papa says.