ASNA Workplace Violence Bill Passes Legislature

ASNA Workplace Violence Bill Passes Legislature

Registered nurses are protected now, thanks to the hard work of the Alabama State Nurses Association.

The Alabama Legislature approved on the final day of the 2006 regular session legislation classifying assault of health care workers a felony. Governor Bob Riley subsequently signed the measure, which now will be codified with laws of the state.

“This is a momentous accomplishment for our Association,” said ASNA Executive Director Joe Decker. “This protects staff nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and physicians’ clinics as they go about their jobs.”

Added ASNA President Janet Donoghue, “This is wonderful legislation. I want to thank everyone-our members, staff, legislators and Governor-for their efforts in passing this legislation.”

Drafted by ASNA attorney/lobbyist Don Eddins, the law raises the crime of assault, as it applies to heath care workers, to a felony punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. To be classified as a felony, the crime must be committed “with intent to injure.”

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, and Senator Ted Little, D-Auburn, was approved without a dissenting vote in either house. This marked the third year that ASNA had pushed the legislation. One year it passed the Senate but died on the House calendar the last night of the session and the next year it passed the House but died on the Senate calendar the final night.

“I want to thank Representative Boyd and Senator Little and all legislators who assisted in passage and certainly Governor Riley who signed the measure into law,” said Eddins. “This was a team effort which certainly shows what we can accomplish if we work together.”

Although the bill was proposed by ASNA, other groups eventually backed it. Included among them were the Alabama Hospital Association, The Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Alabama State Employees’ Association. With other associations’ support, ASNA agreed to revisions to have the protection apply to all health care workers, rather than just registered and licensed practical nurses.

ASNA pointed out that similar protection already is given to teachers, Emergency Medical Technicians and peace officers.

Statistics offered during debate showed that one federal study indicated that an annual average of 429,100 nurses reported being victims of assault during a five-year period.

“This legislation will send a message that if a patient or family member seriously assaults a nurse in Alabama, that person can be put in prison,” said Eddins. “Nurses are the most caring members of society and they often are placed in positions in which they are very vulnerable. They don’t deserve to be subjected to violence while caring for patients and this should offer some workplace protection.”

As a safeguard to persons under treatment, a provision was included which shields patients impaired by medication from application of the law.

Copyright Alabama State Nurses’ Association Jun-Aug 2006

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