AHA: Healthcare workers need to be protected like flight crews

While hospitals have made efforts to reduce violence against their staff, such as raising risk awareness and security investments, healthcare workers deserve stronger protections at the federal level, similar to flight crews, American Hospital Association leaders said in an op-ed published Aug. 2 in The Hill.

The op-ed is written by Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer of the American Hospital Association and CEO of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, and American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack.

The leaders pointed to the Justice Department's commitment last November to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes that occur on planes amid the rise of violent incidents against flight crews. Dr. Begley and Mr. Pollack argue that similar protections are needed for healthcare workers, who have faced increasing acts of violence and abuse at work.

"The feelings of frustration, helplessness and fear in the workplace experienced by airline workers also have been felt by many healthcare workers during the pandemic," Dr. Begley and Mr. Pollack wrote. "However, airline workers benefit from federal protections against workplace violence, while nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers do not." 

For those reasons, the American Hospital Association and its American Organization for Nursing Leadership and other provider groups are urging Congress to enact a bill to protect healthcare workers from violence that is modeled after protections for aircraft and airport workers.

The Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act would criminalize assault or intimidation of hospital employees and authorize legal penalties against individuals who knowingly and intentionally do so, Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and Larry Bucshon, MD, R-Ind., the representatives who introduced the bill June 7, said in a news release. Dr. Begley and Mr. Pollack said the legislation would also establish a grant program for hospitals to reduce workplace violence through efforts such as training staff to respond to threats and better coordination with state and local authorities.

Read the full op-ed here

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