Emergency Physicians Call on Congress to Help Stop Violence in Health Care

Updated on March 22, 2024

ACEP, ENA and ANA Encourage Stronger Protections for Health Care Workers

Leaders from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) joined forces Friday on Capitol Hill to emphasize the need for passage of legislation designed to mitigate the frequency and severity of workplace violence in health care.

During a briefing for congressional staffers, the representatives of the three organizations used data and storytelling to build understanding of the impact this ongoing crisis has on health care workers and patients, a situation that is particularly dire in emergency departments which serve as the health care safety net and are open all day, every day.

Among the data highlighted:

  • The rate of serious injuries related to workplace violence is six-times higher for hospital workers compared to all other private sector employees in the United States.
  • Studies show emergency nurses and other members of the emergency care team experience a violent event once every two months on average.
  • Of the nearly 500 members who responded to an ENA survey this year, 56 percent said they had been either verbally assaulted, threatened with violence or physically assaulted in the previous 30 days.
  • A Press-Ganey analysis found two nurses were assaulted every hour.
  • A 2022 ACEP survey reported 85 percent of emergency physicians believe the rate of violence in the ED has increased over the previous five years.

The trio also discussed the importance of two bills pending in Congress – The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act and the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act – that, respectively, would bolster workplace violence mitigation efforts and make it a federal crime to assault a hospital employee.

“We have to make sure that front-line health care workers are safe and able to provide patients with the lifesaving care that they need and deserve,” said Aisha Terry, MD, MPH, FACEP, president of ACEP. “We are vulnerable to threats and violence, and we are encouraged by those who join our call for stronger protections. Fortunately, these bills can help protect health care workers on the job and take important steps to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.”

“As an emergency nurse for 30 years, I understand what violence in the ED looks like – I have experienced it personally and watched countless co-workers victimized all while simply trying to care for patients,” said ENA President Chris Dellinger, MBA, BSN, RN, FAEN. “Getting kicked, punched, slapped, spit on or attacked with objects is not a part of the job. It cannot be tolerated any longer.”

ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA, FAAN said, “Violence against health care professionals – the very people who are entrusted to care for the sick and encourage healing – is absolutely unacceptable and reprehensible. Passage of federal legislation to protect our nurses and other health care workers and keep them safe is something the American Nurses Association will never stop advocating for, and it is long overdue.

“It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure workplace safety and security, but sadly in many health care settings nurses are still experiencing violence at alarming rates. Too many of my fellow nurses’ lives have already been lost to workplace violence. We need to act now to break the deadly cycle of violence against health care professionals. And these bills that we are currently supporting in Congress is a step in that direction,” said Kennedy.

A recording of the briefing can be viewed here.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education, and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.