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Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , June 10, 2013

Tennessee passes healthcare workplace violence law
Violence toward healthcare workers is not uncommon and comes at a high cost. And the number of states cracking down is growing. On July 1 this year, a new Tennessee law takes effect in which doubles the fine for physically assaulting a healthcare provider to $5,000, the same amount charged for assaulting a police officer.

The legislation, signed by Governor Bill Haslam and sponsored by the Tennessee Nurses Association, is the first law passed about this issue so far this year according to the American Nurses Association.

Fifteen healthcare workers out of every 10,000 experience an incident of violence in the workplace, a rate more than three times the total for the rest of the private industries. From 2003 to 2009, almost half of all non-fatal workplace violence incidents occurred in healthcare settings, most inflicted by patients.

"Workplace violence has huge costs in physical as well as emotional harm and is detrimental to patient care. We believe this law will be a step toward raising awareness and curbing the rise in violence… making our health care workers, and thus their patients, safer," wrote Sharon Adkins, MSN, RN, executive director of the Tennessee Nurses Association in Nashville, in an email.

Nineteen other states (AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, TN, VT, VA, and WV) have similar laws that increased the fines for workplace violence against healthcare providers, while nine (CA, CT, IL, ME, NJ, NY, OR, WA and WV) have additional legislation mandating healthcare employers establish workplace violence prevention programs and reporting policies.

Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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