Violence: Not in My Job Description

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


August 23, 2010

In This Article

Legislative Solutions to Healthcare Workplace Violence

Nurses are often encouraged to report incidents of assault to law enforcement, but, as Child reminds us, "not every state has a law against assaulting a nurse. Or, incomprehensibly, a state law may make it illegal to assault a nurse, but only if the assault takes place outside of the hospital."

No federal laws protect nurses from violence in the workplace, impose penalties on the offenders, or mandate violence prevention programs. However, with more recognition of this growing problem, some states are stepping in to fill the legislative gap and pass legislation to protect nurses. Some states, such as New York and Massachusetts, already have legislation to protect emergency medical technicians, police officers, and firefighters and are in the process of extending those same protections to nurses.[25]

Some states have addressed the problem of violence against nurses by requiring development of workplace violence prevention programs, encouraging greater reporting of incidents, or calling for additional study of workplace violence in their states. Other states have enacted legislation to create or strengthen penalties for acts of workplace violence against nurses (Table).

Table. States With Legislation to Address Violence Against Nurses

States Requiring Violence Prevention Programs, Better Reporting, or More Study of the Problem States With Laws That Increase or Strengthen Penalties for Convicted Offenders
  • California

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Massachusetts

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

  • Alabama

  • Arizona

  • Colorado

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Massachusetts

  • Nevada

  • New York

  • North Caroling

  • New Mexico

Massachusetts recently passed legislation to reinforce penalties for perpetrators of assault against nurses. Ohio recently introduced a bill to make the penalty for assaulting a nurse a fourth-degree penalty with a mandatory 12-month prison sentence. North Carolina's bill includes a provision to protect the victimized nurse from employer discrimination.


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