California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require hospitals to develop plans to protect health care employees from workplace violence.
SB 1299 passed in the Senate Labor Committee last week and moves to the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which sponsored the bill, said the legislation gained greater urgency after the April 20 stabbings of two nurses in separate incidents at Los Angeles-area hospitals.
The bill, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, would require the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt standards requiring hospitals to establish workplace violence prevention plans to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.
Violence against RNs and other health care workers has spread beyond the emergency room and psychiatric units – where the majority of incidents previously have occurred – to involve most nursing departments throughout the hospital, according to the nursing union.
During a Senate hearing, nurses cited two incidents that occurred at a Kaiser Sacramento intensive care unit and on a general medical-surgical floor.
“There is a critical need to have standards and protections that apply for all nurses and health care workers throughout the hospital, not just areas deemed by administration to be high-risk areas,” said Catherine Kennedy, a Kaiser Roseville neonatal natal intensive care RN who was present at the hearing and is on the CNA/NNU board of directors. “Most RNs are used to treating patients with chronic illness and have no real training on how to deescalate an unstable violent patient.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social service workers are nearly five times more likely to suffer workplace assaults than workers in all other major industries combined.
SB 1299 would require hospitals to implement policies that include systems to improve hospital security and appropriate staffing to reduce the potential for violent incidents.
The bill would require hospitals to provide education and training programs for recognizing and responding to violence, and would prohibit hospitals from retaliating against employees who seek help from law enforcement.
The bill also would step up the requirement for hospitals to document and report incidents of violence to Cal/OSHA and would require Cal/OSHA to post a report on its website containing information regarding violent incidents at hospitals and to make recommendations on how to prevent violent incidents at hospitals.
The union noted that the hospital industry derailed similar legislation last year.