PA Hospital Employees Share Personal Stories of Workplace Violence, Urge State Lawmakers to Help Improve Workplace Safety
September 30, 2019
At a listening session recently held at UPMC Altoona, staff from five Pennsylvania hospitals shared with lawmakers personal stories illustrating the urgent need for legislation to help improve workplace safety for health care workers. Pennsylvania hospitals are calling for passage of several measures currently under consideration in the state legislature.
Hospital leaders, nurses, and human relations and security staff recounted unsettling experiences of physical and verbal violence and unwanted social media contact with patients and family members. The stories demonstrated that simple and immediate policy changes are needed to improve the safety of hospital employees, as well as to recruit and retain a high-quality health care workforce.
Hospitals represented at the listening session include:
- Conemaugh Nason Medical Center
- Fulton County Medical Center
- Tyrone Hospital
- UPMC and UPMC Altoona
- Wellspan and Wellspan Chambersburg
The opportunity to discuss specific incidents with lawmakers and with staff from other hospitals helped participants realize that the violence experienced in their workplaces was part of larger trend. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified a 72 percent increase in the rate of workplace violence injuries within its Occupational Health Safety Network-participating hospitals.
Lawmakers that attended the listening session include:
- Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford)
- Rep. Rich Irvin (R-Huntingdon)
- Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene)
- Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York)
- Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair)
- Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York)
- Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Crawford)
“The staff in Pennsylvania’s hospitals are united by a common goal: to deliver excellent care to the patients they serve. Too often, while they are caring for patients, members of our hospital family are becoming victims of violence in their own workplaces,” said Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO. Carter called upon legislative leaders to pass commonsense measures that will protect our staff from workplace violence and make hospitals safer for everyone.
Currently, there are two plans under consideration in the state legislature that could help address this serious problem:
- Senate Bill 351, offered by Senator Judy Ward (R–Blair)—and its companion, House Bill 1879, offered by Representative Keith Gillespie (R–York)—would raise the penalty for an assault on a health care practitioner, while in the performance of duty, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree
- House Bill 39, offered by Representative Pam Snyder (D–Greene)—and its companions Senate Bill 842, offered by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R–York), and House Bill 1880, offered by Representative Keith Gillespie (R–York)—would omit employees’ last names on hospital name badges, decreasing opportunities for harassment of employees and increasing a sense of security in the workplace
You can make a difference by Taking Action Now and sending an email to your elected state officials, urging them to support several state bills that have been introduced in an effort to decrease workplace violence in health care settings.
HAP held its first listening session during May on this topic where lawmakers in Southeastern Pennsylvania heard similar stories from hospital staff and leadership at Lankenau Medical Center, a part of Main Line Health.
For more information about the importance of passing workplace safety legislation, please contact Tim Ohrum, HAP’s vice president, grassroots advocacy.