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We’re Concerned About Workplace Safety; Let’s Back this Bill

Like many healthcare organizations across the country and here in Vermont, NMC is seeing an increase in workplace violence and it’s time to take action.  

For months, NMC’s Emergency Department has been tracking instances of abusive behavior toward staff from patients and visitors. Since January, ED staff have experienced assaultive, abusive or threatening behavior 184 times. The behaviors range from screaming and shouting to intimidation, death threats, physical harm and assaults – making the delivery of care that much more difficult in already difficult times.  

The safety of our staff, and the safety of our care environment are our first priorities at NMC. We have a specialized code we use when an incident is occurring with a dedicated rapid-response team who work to de-escalate the situation. We are working through a security audit of our policies and processes, and implementing new signage to reinforce the message that weapons are not allowed and that respect is important. We appreciate the support of local law enforcement when violent crimes are committed in our building.  

But we need more help. Pilots and flight attendants have more protections in place than healthcare workers, and we need to do better for our industry. NMC staff should not be afraid in their workspaces, or feel that no one hears their plea for support.  

It is instances such as those described above that are creating gaps in our workforce. Nurses are leaving nursing for many reasons, workplace violence tops the list for many of them. 

We are calling for community action on workplace safety, and are in full support of the SAVE Act to Protect Health Care Workers in Congress. The bill would do the following:  

  • 10 years imprisonment for anyone who knowingly assaults or intimidates a hospital employee 
  • 20 years for anyone who uses a deadly or dangerous weapon or inflicts bodily injury; or knowingly assaults or intimidates a hospital employee during an emergency declaration   
  • Exception for individuals with physical, mental, or intellectual disability  
  • $25M in grants to hospitals for training and technology to prevent violence 

I am asking our congressional delegates to pass this bill into law and show true support for healthcare workers who have given so much in their careers and especially through the pandemic.  

Together as a community, we need to move toward civility, understanding and compassion. We have all been through so much, that the need for mental health supports must become a priority and our tolerance for violence must be zero.  

Dr. Dean French,  

Chief Executive Officer,  

Northwestern Medical Center