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Every day, healthcare workers across the country are violently attacked. The situation is alarming in emergency departments, which are open around the clock and required by federal law to stabilize and treat anyone who walks in. Studies have shown that ED staff experience a violent event about once every two months.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D.-Conn. and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D.-Wisc. recently introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Healthcare and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 2663 and S. 1176). The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has previously supported introducing other workplace violence bills.

“Continued violence against emergency nurses or any healthcare worker is neither normal nor acceptable, under any circumstance, yet the problem has gone unabated to the point of it becoming a crisis,” says 2023 ENA President Terry Foster, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, CCRN, TCRN, FAEN. “Meaningful solutions to mitigate and reduce violence in the emergency department are imperative, which is why ENA has long-supported legislation such as the Workplace Violence Prevention for Healthcare and Social Service Workers Act. The time to act is now.”

This proposed legislation directs the Secretary of Labor to require healthcare and social service employers to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans that are worker-driven and comprehensive to ensure the safety of patients and workers.

Through a workplace violence prevention plan, an employer would:

  • Develop processes to identify and respond to risks and hazards that make settings vulnerable to violence.
  • Implement protocols to document and investigate the violence.
  • Create an environment that supports employees who report incidents of violence, including non-retaliation policies.
  • Ensure that employees are appropriately trained in identifying and addressing hazards and their rights regarding workplace violence.
See also
ENA Launches Updated ENPC, 6th Edition

Workplace violence has long been a top priority for ENA, which supported similar bills introduced in the last four congressional cycles. In 2019, ENA and the American College of Emergency Physicians united to launch the No Silence on ED Violence  campaign focused on raising awareness about the issue and providing emergency nurses and physicians with relevant resources and a peer support network.

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