Hospitals are places of healing, health and hope. They strive to create safe spaces for the patients and communities they serve and the dedicated team members who work there each and every day.
To do this, hospitals have implemented a number of innovative strategies, including focusing on technology and training to mitigate risk, redesigning facilities and workflows to prioritize safety, and reimagining relationships with hospital security and surrounding communities to support prevention and crisis response. The AHA, through our Hospitals Against Violence (HAV) initiative, shares these resources, strategies and best practices to promote a culture of safety across the field.
We appreciate the leadership of the HAV Advisory Group, which is co-chaired by AHA Board Members Mary Beth Kingston, executive vice president and chief nursing officer with Charlotte, N.C.- based Advocate Health, and Mary Ann Fuchs, senior vice president and chief nurse executive for Centra Health in Lynchburg, Va., in developing a framework for addressing workplace violence. We are also appreciative of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and other partners in helping us lead this important work.
Despite hospitals’ sustained efforts, our health care workforce is embattled by a sharp increase in workplace violence, especially since the start of the pandemic. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that health care workers are five times more likely than any other type of worker to be physically attacked on the job.
The effects of violence against health care workers extend far beyond their physical injuries. Workplace violence can disrupt and delay care in hospitals, demoralize staff and make it difficult to attract and retain workers.
Despite the rise in violence and its damaging effects, no federal law exists to protect health care workers. These caring professionals are the heart of our nation’s health care system and deserve an environment free from violence in which to care for patients.
We are hopeful that help is on the way from Congress. This week, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Marco Rubio R-Fla., introduced the bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act. Their legislation would give health care workers similar protections against assault to those that flight crews and airport workers have by criminalizing such behavior under federal law. We commend Sens. Manchin and Rubio for their leadership on this issue.
The Senate bill is similar to H.R. 2584, which was introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., in April.
The federal laws criminalizing assault against aircraft and airport workers have made an impact. Vigorous enforcement of these statutes has helped create a safer traveling environment, deterred violent behavior and ensured that offenders face severe consequences for their actions. The SAVE Act will offer the same protections to our irreplaceable health care teams, who deserve no less.
The AHA strongly supports making the safety of our caregivers a national priority. Enactment of this critically important bipartisan legislation would be a significant step forward in protecting our health care workforce.