Senate Acts To Protect Nurses From Violence

January 25, 2010

Legislation Raises Assault Penalty to Class C or D

 The New York State Senate passed legislation today strengthening the penalties for individuals who injure or attempt to injure nurses while in the line of duty.  The bill renders penalty for assault on registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) a class C or D felony.
This bill recognizes the important service to the public provided by RNs and LPNs, who suffer the highest proportions of injuries than any healthcare workers, by providing them with the same protections other first responders now have. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 500,000 nurses each year become victims of violent crimes in the workplace. Most commonly reported acts of violence reported include spitting, biting, hitting and shoving. Threats of violence are an even more common occurrence.
Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson(D-Bronx/Westchester), Chair of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee and lead sponsor of the legislation said, “Nurses and other emergency medical professionals are often among the first to treat persons in need of medical assistance.  Unfortunately, countless acts of violence are inflicted upon nurses while in the line of duty, and currently, the law does not offer them the same protections as it offers other emergency medical professionals.  By making these acts of violence against nurses a felony, an important standard will be set that violence against these medical professionals is not accepted and will not be tolerated.”
Senator Thomas K. Duane (D-Manhattan), Chair of the Health Committee, said, “Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses give critical care to others and should receive the highest available protections against workplace violence.  Emergency medical settings are inherently dangerous work environments and I am proud to support laws which impose stringent penalties against those who would abuse medical professionals."
Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) said, “Violence against medical professionals must not be tolerated -- and that's why it's imperative that every measure be taken to ensure a safe work environment for all registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who are often on the front lines providing acute and emergency care.”
Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) said, “Protecting the men and women who dedicate their professional lives to helping and treating others is imperative.  Nurses often must treat criminals and individuals who are under the influence and are often subject to intimidation, harassment and physical abuse.  Senator Hassell-Thompson is to be commended for recognizing that just as it is a class C felony to injure an officer of the law or a firefighter while in the line of duty, nurses need and deserve the same protections.”
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th District) said, "Workplace safety for emergency medical professionals, including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, should absolutely be an established standard.  Protection from violence and abuse is a very important component for increasing recruitment and retention of vital professionals in the health care field.  We must continue to do our utmost to address the shortage of nurses in our workforce and to protect their health and safety."
Senator Antoine Thompson (D-parts of Erie and Niagara Counties) said, “Nurses do not discriminate to whom they give medical treatment, often placing themselves in harm’s way.  It is our duty to protect them so they can perform their professional duties without fear of injury.  I commend Senator Hassell-Thompson for sponsoring this bill and sending the message that assaulting nurses and other medical professionals will be taken very seriously and punished accordingly.”
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr  (D-Queens) said, “With a large percentage of cases being unreported, thousands of RN’s and LPNs face countless acts of violence every day.  By amending the penal law, patients will be held responsible for their actions and ensure protection for all medical professionals.  I applaud Senator Hassel-Thompson for identifying this problem and guaranteeing nurses the same protection as law officers and firefighters."
The incidence of assault is exacerbated by the fact that many hospitals across New York are often understaffed, leading many nurses to work in isolation with patients who may be suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, making violent behavior more likely.