Members of Congress and hospital and physician leaders Jan. 30 highlighted at a Capitol Hill briefing how the bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act (H.R. 2584/S. 2768) would help protect health care workers from violence, alleviate workforce challenges and sustain quality patient care. The AHA-supported legislation would provide federal protections from violence for health care workers similar to those that apply to aircraft and airport workers.

Opening the briefing were Reps. Larry Bucshon, M.D., R-Ind., and Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., sponsors of the House bill. The panel comprised Mark Boucot, president and CEO, WVU Medicine Garrett Regional Medical Center and WVU Medicine Potomac Valley Hospital; Kate FitzPatrick, D.N.P., executive vice president, Connelly Foundation and chief nurse executive officer, Jefferson Health; and Aisha Terry, M.D., president, American College of Emergency Physicians and associate professor of emergency medicine and health policy, George Washington University School of Medicine.

FitzPatrick discussed the cumulative effects of workplace violence on employees. "It comes out in a lot of different ways," she said. "People get depressed, have anxiety, feel low self-esteem and have other challenges such as sleep disorders or high levels of absenteeism. All of this is really impacting our health care infrastructure."

Health care employees are the safety net of health care for the country, Terry said. "We know for sure that workforce safety is linked to patient safety, and therefore in order to ensure that we're able to provide patients with the care that they need, we have to get them some help," she said.

Boucot said some might think his hospital is less prone to workplace violence just because it’s in a rural area, but that isn't the case. "For people who work in our hospital, this isn't something they want to talk about," he said. "They would rather try to sweep it under the rug and move on and think of how we're going to take care of the next patient. I think that has created a sense of acceptance that it's part of the job, and it really shouldn't be."

The AHA and American College of Emergency Physicians cohosted today’s briefing, which was attended by nearly 100 House and Senate staff.

The AHA and other national hospital organizations last week highlighted the need for the legislation in letters to the House and Senate sponsors.

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