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California's Nurses Deserve To Be Safe

A recent string of violent attacks against California nurses has generated a lot of media attention and a new bill requiring more extensive safety procedures in state hospitals.

The attacks drawing so much publicity both took place in the Los Angeles Area on Sunday, just hours apart. In one case, a man bypassed security and rushed into the Olive View UCLA Medical Center where he stabbed a nurse multiple times with a knife. The nurse is still in critical condition. In the other instance, a man approached a group of nurses and used a pencil to stab one of them in the ear.

But those aren't the only two recent attacks. Just Tuesday, hospital staff at Kaiser Permanente in Terra Linda was also attacked by 25-year-old Sean Maxwell Hayes, who allegedly threw two large traffic cones at hospital staff when they refused to give him the painkillers he requested.

California's nurses have had enough, and so they've rightfully taken action. A bill recently introduced to California lawmakers would:

  • Make it easier to investigate cases of violence
  • Better planning when it comes to staffing and security
  • Training for hospital staff to identify and be able to respond to violence

State Senator Alex Padilla introduced the bill, saying that existing laws are too vague regarding the issue of violence in hospitals. But some groups, such as the California Hospital Association, reportedly feel that hospitals already have safety plans in place and the bill is largely unnecessary.

As I've said before on this blog, nurses are the eyes and ears of our healthcare system. This means that they're almost always on the front lines interacting with patients. It follows, then, that when a patient turns violent, nurses are the most likely victims of that violence and probably the category of worker least able to respond to it.

Were these three attacks just a streak of bad luck, three instances of fluke disruptions of otherwise airtight hospital safety plans? I don't think so. In my opinion, this is a wakeup call. Hospitals need to renew their commitments to ensuring the safety of their workers. And, whether or not this bill passes, I believe a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Nurses need to be better trained to handle potentially violent patients. Administrators need to be better trained to identify potentially violent patients. And security needs to be tightened so that someone can't just bypass security with a knife on their person. That was totally unacceptable. It is time to have security in hospitals.

Nurses and other healthcare workers deserve to feel as safe as possible in their places of work. For this reason, I hope this bill does pass so that hospitals will be required to revisit their safety procedures and policies. Safety is a win for everyone involved.

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