Hospitals and health systems are beacons of healing, comfort, care and hope. They also are the first places people turn to in times of disaster, emergency and sadly, acts of violence.

Violence is one of the nation’s major public health and safety issues, both in our communities and workplaces.

Today, for the seventh year in a row, AHA is leading #HAVhope Friday — a national day of awareness to end violence. #HAVhope unites hospitals, health systems, nurses, doctors, other health care professionals and individuals from communities across the country in sharing their commitment to ending violence, as well as highlighting innovative strategies and partnerships they are implementing that are making a difference. Please take a few minutes to view the many social and digital posts with #HAVhope.

This year one of the focus areas of #HAVhope is preventing and mitigating violence in the workplace.

“Violence in the health care environment has a broad impact on the workforce and patient care delivery,” says AHA Board Member Mary Beth Kingston, executive vice president and chief nursing officer with Advocate Health and chair of AHA’s Hospitals Against Violence advisory group. “It contributes to our existing workforce shortage and it’s challenging to provide care when concerned about your own physical and psychological safety.”

According to a survey  of registered nurses working in hospitals during the pandemic, 44% of respondents reported experiencing physical violence and 68% reported experiencing verbal abuse. In addition, according to a 2022 American College of Emergency Physicians survey, 85% of emergency physicians believe the rate of violence experienced in emergency departments has increased over the past five years.

Even if the attack isn’t physical, the onslaught of verbal assaults — threats, intimidation, profanity and abuse — can be just as debilitating to a health care worker who is trying to provide the best patient care they can.

Hospitals and health systems are taking a number of efforts to provide health care workers with a safe work environment, and the AHA through its Hospitals Against Violence initiative offers toolkits and resources to help organizations build a safer workplace and community.

But more must be done. That’s why the AHA strongly supports and worked to introduce the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act (H.R. 2584).

Introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., the bipartisan legislation would give health care workers the same legal protections against assault and intimidation that flight crews and airport workers have under federal law. The bill also would provide funding for violence prevention training programs, coordination with state and local law enforcement, and physical plant improvements, such as metal detectors and panic buttons.

We’ll continue urging Congress to pass this bill. Please encourage your lawmakers to support these efforts as well.

The millions of dedicated health care workers across this country who give their all every day should never fear for their safety when they are working to save lives and keep people healthy.

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