Support H.R.7961 – SAVE Act (117th Congress)

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Young African-American nurse with stethoscope on color background, closeup

H.R.7961 – Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act (117th Congress) is sponsored by Representative Dean [D-PA-4] and introduced 06/07/2022. Thirty four bipartisan representatives have signed on as cosponsors to H.R.7961 SAVE Act since the Bill was introduced. Five of the cosponsors are representatives from Pennsylvania, including the primary sponsor Rep. Dean.Healthy Me PA, sponsored by the Hospital and Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), noted in their support for H.B. 7961  (“Protecting Health Care Workers With the SAVE Act, September 8, 2022, https://www.healthymepa.com/?s=Save). They note that this legislation will help patients by ensuring that “health care professionals can focus on giving the best care, instead of worrying about their safety.”

Recently, the American Organization for Nursing Leaders (AONL) advocated for H.B. 7961 SAVE Act during its Virtual Advocacy Days on September 13 and 14, 2022 as AONL members spoke with their congressional representatives. This recent advocacy may explain the sudden uptick of five bipartisan representatives signing on as cosponsors on September 15, 2022.Federal data shows that healthcare workers experience the highest rate of violence.https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/workplace-violence-healthcare-2018.htm

Currently, there is no federal law that protects hospital employees from assault and intimidation. H.R.7961 is modeled after similar legislation that was enacted for aircraft and airport workers, and it would criminalize assault or intimidation of hospital employees, with protections for individuals who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use. This bill includes a $25 million grant over 10 years to provide for training programs for hospital personnel that includes de-escalation techniques, and prevention of violence and intimidation to themselves and coworkers; law enforcement coordination; and technology.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are 6.6 hospital and healthcare workers in the US (Number of hospitals and hospital employment in each state in 2019. 2020, April 6. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/number-of-hospitals-and-hospital-employment-in-each-state-in-2019.htm).  

Of these, 4.2 million nurses work in every aspect of healthcare in the US (American Nurses Association, Workforce. 2020. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce)

Press Ganey’s September 8, 2022 analysis of the second quarter of 2022 National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) revealed that the incidence of reported episodes of workplace violence in healthcare on average is two every hour, or 57/day. (Brusie, C. (2022, September 14). 2 nurses assaulted every hour in the workplace, according to New StudyNurse.org.  https://nurse.org/articles/nurses-assault-press-ganey-study/ ).  This analysis is based on reported assaults from 483 healthcare facilities during that time period. And yet, there is serious underreporting of workplace violence by healthcare workers, therefore it is difficult to know the accurate statistic of the number of workplace violence incidents/hour. (U.S. National Library of Medicine. Workplace violence on healthcare professionals and underreporting: Characterization and knowledge gaps for prevention. Enfermeria clinica, English Edition. 2021, October 7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34627729/)

Patients who have the highest incidence of violence are those who are mentally ill, being under the influence of drug or alcohol, and having been a victim of violence.  Nurses, as direct healthcare workers providing patient care, are at the highest risk of becoming a victim of workplace violence.  Healthcare workers who are most often targeted are women under age 40, and those worked full time. (Gillespie, et al. Workplace violence in healthcare settings: risk factors and protective strategies. Rehabilitation Nurses. 2010 Sep-Oct. 35(5):177-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8890760/.)

Healthcare workplace violence has reached epidemic proportions in the US. H.R.7961 – SAVE Act (117th Congress) would make this a federal crime and help protect healthcare workers, to keep them safe and allow them to focus on providing care for all patients. Nurses and healthcare organizations applaud Representative Dean’s introduction of this legislation and encourages Congress to support federal legislation that will protect healthcare workers from violence. Healthcare workers and all who receive care from healthcare workers are encouraged to contact their US Congressional representatives and ask them to support H.R.7961 – SAVE Act (117th Congress).

Mary O’Connor, PhD, MSN, RN is Professor Emeritus, PennWest University, California campus and member of the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders, Legislative Committee.