EDUCATION
August 15, 2017

How A Nurse Stabbing Made It Safer For The Rest Of Us

By Angelina Gibson

Elise Wilson, a dedicated Nurse of over 35 years, was stabbed 11 times by a patient during a routine assessment. Conor O’Regan was dissatisfied with the previous care he received for a wrist injury at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, MA. 

Deep injuries to her neck and protection wounds to her arms left Wilson fighting for her life. Her horrific experience prompted national attention and pressured lawmakers to pass “Elise’s Law”-- a bill set to protect nurses throughout Massachusetts from violence. 

On July 19, 2017, the House-Senate Public Safety Committee approved Elise’s Law requiring health care employers to implement workplace violence prevention plans. Furthermore, the bill requires employers to give injured employees paid time off while dealing with legal issues. 

While violence against nurses is nothing new, the Center for Disease Control reports that between the years of 2012-2014 incidents of violence nearly doubled for nurses and continues to grow. 

OSHA.gov reports that violent injuries in the healthcare industry account for almost as many violent injuries as all other industries combined -- even more than police officers and prison guards. 

In fact, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the years of 2005-2014, the rate of health care workplace violence increased by 110% within the private-sector. Approximately 1 in 4 nurses have reported being physically assaulted on the job within the past year. 

Budget cuts and layoffs looming from the great recession have left hospitals with fewer nurses and fewer security guards. Additionally, emergency rooms across the country are sought out by psychiatric patients who have been affected by funding cuts to mental health services. 

States like Massachusetts have passed protective regulations on their own including increased penalties for those convicted of assaulting healthcare workers. However, there are no federal laws in place to protect nurses against workplace violence. Many states do not require hospitals to have violence prevention programs or de-escalation education.  

With cases like Elise Wilson’s on the rise, the US Department of Labor is forced to consider nationwide workplace-safety standards for hospitals to prevent abuse against healthcare workers. Nurses, the most trusted professionals in the country, need protection.

*Image credit: Massachusetts Nurses Association

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