Legislation Against Hospital Violence Promotes Safety for Everyone

Friday, June 2, is Hospitals Against Violence Day. The national statistics behind this day of recognition are grim. Healthcare workers are four times more likely to be affected by workplace violence than workers in private industry. When surveyed, 25% of nurses reported being physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member. A full 70% of violent incidents are not reported by nurses. While work-related violence in healthcare is commonly associated with large urban areas, rural healthcare workers are affected as well. 

Fortunately, progress is being made. During the 2023 legislative session, Indiana passed House Bill 1021, which imposes stricter sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of committing battery that results in bodily injury of an emergency room employee.  

The language of House Bill 1021 was derived from the Indiana Hospital Association’s “Safe and Sound” initiative to increase workplace safety for all healthcare workers. Brad Smith, CEO of Rush Memorial Hospital, during his tenure as Chairman of the IHA Board, led the charge to promote protections for healthcare workers from violence.  

As CEO of a hospital, Brad feels very strongly about the importance of keeping staff safe. He says, “Our employees are here to save lives. Not to worry about their own. We have to protect our staff and our patients by being vigilant and by holding people accountable for their behavior, especially in a healthcare setting, which should be a safe environment for all.”  

While House Bill 1021 is a step forward, it isn’t perfect. It only applies to those working in emergency rooms, largely because this is the department that typically bears the brunt of patients and family members who are upset or angry. Nonetheless, all healthcare workers, not just those in the emergency room, deserve to care for patients in a safe and secure environment. Hopefully this year’s step forward is next year’s first step to even stronger and broader protections for all healthcare workers.   

While healthcare workers have reason to celebrate House Bill 2021, the Safe and Sound Initiative includes measures that can be taken by individual hospitals. RMH is currently working to incorporate these measures into its pre-existing safety and security practices. As Brad says, “Employee and patient safety is Rush Memorial’s top priority.”