If you turn on the news at any given time, you are bound to see violence happening across the country. If you narrow the scope, violence in health care facilities is increasing at an alarming rate. Across the Hoosier state, there has been an uptick in assaults on nurses, hospital security, emergency room staff, and others within the past few years. While hospitals and health systems have protocols in place to detect and deter violence, the toll of workplace violence on hospital employees can be immense, ranging from physical and psychological harm to intimidation that prevents hospital staff from providing the best possible care to patients.
But health care workers in Indiana can rest a little easier after a new law went into effect on July 1. During the 2023 legislative session, IHA’s government relations team worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1021, which now elevates penalties for attacks on all staff in Indiana emergency departments.
Before the bill was passed, it was a Class B misdemeanor to commit battery, and a Class A misdemeanor if the battery resulted in bodily injury. However, if the battery was committed against a “public safety official,” the penalty was enhanced to a Level 6 penalty, which is six months to 2.5 years in prison. Likewise, if the battery committed against a public safety official resulted in bodily injury, the crime was enhanced to a Level 5 penalty, leading to one to six years in prison.
HEA 1021 now includes all staff members of an emergency department of a hospital within the definition of “public safety official” so that all staff members of an emergency department, including aides, environmental staff, support staff, and technicians, are afforded the enhanced penalties for battery.
Along with the passage of the new law, IHA has increased efforts to mitigate violence against health care workers through a new public awareness campaign called the Safe and Sound Workplace Safety Initiative. Now, when you walk through the doors of your local hospital, you can expect to see signage indicating that violence in the facility is not accepted. The comprehensive violence prevention campaign aims to increase public understanding of the problem of workplace violence while improving data collection of workplace safety perceptions and events to assess and mitigate risk.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes is one of the first facilities to display the images to demonstrate to the community that violence is not tolerated within the four walls of the hospital. Although orders have been placed for official Safe and Sound campaign banners, employees and hospital officials decided they wanted to get a head start by immediately printing the campaign messages on regular computer paper. Jamie Massey, a risk management nurse at Good Samaritan said there is no better time than now to say “no” to violence.
“Caregivers face violence every day from patients and visitors, which hinders their ability to provide excellent care to our community,” Massey said. “The Safe and Sound initiative is a great visual reminder to those who enter our doors that workplace violence is not and will not be accepted.”
While we cannot predict future violent acts, together as an industry, we can remain vigilant, share best practices, increase training, and support our health care workers to make a difference in the outcomes of violent incidents.
The language in HEA 1021 was a part of IHA’s 2023 legislative agenda and a component of the association’s Safe and Sound initiative. IHA is grateful to 2022 Board Chairman Brad Smith of Rush Memorial Hospital for creating this initiative and IHA’s Council on Quality and Patient Safety Chairman, Larry Tracy of Memorial Hospital of South Bend, for his testimony supporting the language that has now been passed into law.