Protecting Nurses During National Nurses Week

Elizabeth Hawkins

Pictured: Elizabeth Hawkins. Member-provided photo.

During National Nurses Week, we celebrate the heroes who, with skill and compassion, care for the sick. This year, we’re honoring their hard work and dedication by supporting the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, a bill that seeks to raise the bar on safety standards and protect nurses from preventable incidents of violence at work. 

Health care workers face higher risk of workplace violence than workers overall, according to a GAO study. Unfortunately, the dangers they face on the job and the sacrifices they make are often unknown to the public, even derided by some.

Elizabeth Hawkins, a registered nurse and secretary of AFSCME UNAC/UHCP, explained how the new bill would address some of those hazards.

“It’s not enough to identify the red flags or the dangers that exist. There must be a plan in place to deal with these potential assaults so that they don’t happen. I saw the red flags and requested assistance from security and my co-workers,” said Hawkins, recalling the threats of physical violence she experienced on the job.


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Nurses shouldn’t have to worry about the threat of violence while caring for their patients. Their jobs are hard enough.

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Lynn Redner

Pictured: Lynn Redner. Member-provided photo.

“Because no concrete plan was in place. I was still punched in the head, and everyone reacted to the assault instead of preventing it. It is better to know specifically what needs to be done before you need to use it,” said Hawkins.

Under the Workplace Violence Prevention bill, which was re-introduced in Congress earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would require employers to develop and implement plans to prevent on-the-job violence.

"Workplace violence prevention is a critical step to ensure Healthcare providers are working in safe environments, allowing them to deliver the best patient care,” according to Lynn Redner, AFSCME Council 57member and registered nurse at Tahoe Forest Hospital.