Physical and verbal violence against nurses and health care providers is a growing epidemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an annual report about injuries and illnesses resulting in time away from work in the United States.
In the health care and social assistance sectors, 13% of days away from work were the result of violence in 2013, and this rate has increased in recent years. To combat this growing epidemic of violence against nurses and healthcare workers, many states have enacted legislation that results in enhanced penalties for assaulting a nurse or health care worker while they are providing care.
The State of Delaware adopted legislation in 2016 which raised the intentional physical injury of a nurse while such person is performing a work-related duty to a second degree, class D felony. This legislation helps deter violence from happening and allows the judicial system to prosecute offenders appropriately.
In 2019, legislation (HB 144) was introduced in Delaware that would expand this level of assault to other hospital workers and certain first responders working within a hospital setting. However, an amendment was introduced that would remove all health care providers and employees from the list. ChristianaCare and Delaware nurses responded promptly to this legislation amendment through the Advocacy Committee of the Delaware Nurses Association.
Annamarie Flick, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC is a ChristianaCare Nurse Leader and Chair of the Advocacy Committee. Through her work at the national level, Annamarie organized a state event that was held on January 21, 2020 at Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware. The event, called Nurses Speak, brought together nurses and state legislators to discuss violence in healthcare settings and why the enhanced penalty should remain. Several state representatives attended the event and listened to the stories of terrible violence faced by nurses every day.
Later that day, in the House session, the HB 144 was passed (with the amendment stricken) and then sent over to the Senate. David McBride, President pro tempore of the Delaware Senate, met with nurses during the event and expressed his support of the bill which upholds the enhanced and expands the enhanced penalties. Additionally, the Nurses Speak event opened the door for additional conversations to occur between nurses and state legislators regarding health care workplace violence and other strategies that could be put in place.