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Addressing nursing care that becomes nursing assaults

While named after one nurse assaulted in a Massachusetts healthcare facility, Elise’s Law and its passage directly addresses a growing problem for all who dedicate their lives to the nursing profession.

Workplace violence.

Elise Wilson was working at Harrington Hospital on June 14 when patient Conor O’Regan stabbed her multiple times while in an examination room. What seemed to be a rather routine part of hers and any other nurse’s workday became anything but routine.

After the violent attack, she was med-flighted to UMass Center in critical condition. Her assailant ran off, but was captured a short time later.

Wilson recovered, but it wasn’t her first violent encounter in her 35-year career, nor would it likely be her last.

Elise’s Law, formally known as An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence, now requires Massachusetts employers at hospitals to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans and formal semi-annual reporting of assaults to district attorneys. It also provides time off for healthcare workers injured in assaults.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration report revealed that patients are the primary source of violence in healthcare settings. Specifically, eighty percent of serious violent incidents reported in healthcare settings involved patient interactions.

More troubling data in the OSHA report surrounds the number of nursing assaults that go unreported, including attacks that occur at facilities with formal incident reporting systems. A survey of 4,738 Minnesota nurses showed 60 percent of physical assaults were reported to a manager.

The study cited various reasons for underreporting, including fear of retaliation and a lack of reporting policy and overall faith in the system.

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