Assaulting a nurse is now a Class D felony under New York state law.
The Violence Against Nurses Law passed this week puts nurses into a protected group that includes police officers, firefighters and emergency responders. A physical attack on a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse (or one of the other service workers in the protected category) is considered a felony and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Workplace violence against nurses has been in the news a lot lately. A California psychiatric technician was allegedly killed at the hands of a patient. A doctor assaulted an ICU nurse while he was a patient in Intensive Care. According to the Emergency Nurses Association, between 8 percent and 13 percent of emergency department nurses are victims of physical violence each week.
While a number of states have considered or are currently considering increasing the penalty for assaulting a nurse, support for these measures have been limited. Similar bills failed in both North Carolina and Vermont; Virginia simply punted the proposal to the state crime commission. Ohio is still considering a change in the law.
The New York Nurses Association and Emergency Nurses Association both applaud passage of the legislation. However, they note that the new law is just part of the solution. Nurses also need training in communication and de-escalation techniques; theyÂ need proper equipment (including panic buttons and silent alarms) as well.
What do you think of the new law? Is your gut reaction, “About time!” or “What good will that do?” Discuss!