Since the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against health care workers has continued to increase.
Health care workers remain five times more likely than other professionals to get physically attacked on the job. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About 44% of nurses report experiencing physical violence since the pandemic.
That’s according to the American Hospital Association. These attacks can also include harassment, intimidation, and other threatening behaviors.
Health care research company Press Ganey also found that there were two assaults on U.S. nurses every hour in the second quarter of 2022.
But even in 2010, health care and social assistance workers were the victims of about 11,370 assaults. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that this was a nearly 14% increase from the year before. And many more encounters go unreported.
Pandemic-related stress and other factors have led to a spike in attacks on hospital patients, visitors, and staff. This is dangerous and traumatic for the devoted men and women on the front lines of patient care.
It also limits quality care and ties up valuable patient support resources. This damages the entire American health care system.
Research shows that workplace violence harms patient satisfaction. It also reduces employee productivity and increases the likelihood of medical problems. Despite this, no federal laws protect health care employees from workplace assault or intimidation.
We at UPMC care deeply about our employees and the patients we serve. We support the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act.
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean and Congressman Larry Bucshon are the act’s sponsors. It’s under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Marco Rubio are leading its Senate companion bill.
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What’s the SAVE Act?
A federal statute that protects aircraft and airport workers has served as a model for the SAVE Act. The act would make it a federal crime to assault or intimidate a hospital employee. It would also protect those whose crimes are the result of mental illness.
Its penalties would apply to violent acts that involve dangerous weapons. It would also apply to those that result in bodily harm or take place during an emergency declaration.
Hospitals and health systems often have protocols in place for avoiding violence. But the SAVE Act would add enhanced criminal penalties for those who knowingly assault and intimidate hospital employees.
The legislation would also start a U.S. Department of Justice grant program. This program would support hospitals’ efforts to limit violence.
It would do so by funding training programs with the help of state and local law enforcement. It would also add safety improvements such as metal detectors and panic buttons.
What’s Senate Bill 849?
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 849 is another important piece of legislation. Sen. John Kane is its sponsor. This bill would further address violence against health care workers across the Commonwealth.
The bill would create the Healthcare Facilities Violence Prevention Act. This act would put in place fines and penalties related to workplace violence. Health care clinics would also have to create workplace violence prevention committees that:
- Create and give guidance on programs that aim to prevent workplace violence.
- Start a workplace violence prevention program.
- Assess factors that may put a provider at risk.
- Require violent incident reporting and meetings to review workplace violence cases.
- Train employees who provide direct patient care.
- Protect employees who report violence.
How Can These Bills Address Health Care Workforce Shortages?
Employee assaults lead to physical and emotional trauma. This can disrupt care and job performance.
Violence against health care workers makes it harder to have a skilled workforce.
UPMC encourages Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support these legislative efforts. Doing so will not only improve patients’ quality of care. It’ll benefit the American health care system for decades to come.
About Government Advocacy
UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Learn about UPMC’s position on public health issues and gain a better understanding of the initiatives that advance the health care industry.