Health Care Legislation

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Health Policy Legislation: Nursing Within the American Health Care System December 6, 2010

Description of HB 450
Over the last few years, states have begun to develop legislation to protect healthcare workers from assault. Ohio is no different. House Bill 450 (HB 450) is a piece of legislation introduced by State Representatives Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) and Linda S. Bolon (D-Columbiana) that is aimed at making the crime of assaulting a registered nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) while performing their duties in the workplace a forth degree felony. HB 450 is technically not considered a new law in Ohio. Similar legislation currently exists and HB 450 would be considered an amendment to existing legislation which protects the rights of firefighters, emergency medical service (EMS) workers, teachers, and law enforcement personnel among others listed in the bill. Section 2903.13 adheres to all other pre-established guidelines that the current law affords other individuals who work in services directed at public welfare. Despite the omission of healthcare providers from existing legislation, other “first responders” are covered by its protections. Upon analysis, healthcare providers seem to be a logical addition to upcoming legislation. The bill currently sits in the Criminal Justice Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives and seems to have stalled. It was introduced on February 2nd, 2010 and appears to have lacked enough momentum to make it to the floor for a formalized vote. It does not appear that the bill will not be moving forward anytime soon. In November, of the bills biggest proponents, only Representative Driehaus survived re-election. In addition, Ohio State Senator Sue Moreno RN was also defeated. Moreno, a registered nurse, would have had the understanding of a healthcare professional and skill of a politician to provide powerful support to such an initiative. Among Representatives Driehaus’ supporters, the Ohio Nurse Association (ONA) maintains staunch backing of this issue. The ONA has requested that the bill be extended to cover all healthcare workers in the course of performing their duties. This is not unlike similar protections which already exist for ancillary support services to teachers such as administrators and bus drivers. At this point, only sponsor testimony has been offered. Background

Upon research of the subject, the literature paints a compelling picture for such legislation. Studies conducted in the United States and Australia are disturbingly similar and strongly suggests that high levels of workplace violence and harassment are a problem for nurses internationally (Jackson, 2002, p.13). Nurses are often exposed to many difficult social and cultural dynamics at the frontline. The nature of the health care profession might lead one to believe that the threat of violence is over stated. Reasonable and sensible analysis of the care giver/patient relationship would cause many to consider that healthcare professionals are insulated from violence in that their mission is to improve quality of life. GP magazine however, reports a very different reality, citing that health care professionals are four times more likely to experience work-related violence and aggression than workers in any other profession, with one in three nurses reporting having been physically assaulted at work (2007. p. 36). The statistics point to a significant issue which threatens the wellbeing of care providers globally.

As the concerns of healthcare professionals regarding their safety grow, even greater economic issues loom on the horizon. Quite possibly, episodes of violence and aggression towards nurses directly correlate to sick leave, burnout, and poor recruitment and retention rates. Most data indicate that nursing numbers, which are already on the decline, will face crisis levels as the baby boomer generation moves toward retirement and the need for more...
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