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Sign bill to protect nurses from violence

Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Nurses are the fundamental backbone of our current health care system, yet our legal system doesn’t protect them against violence as it does other professions. There’s significant evidence that nurses are often in the crosshairs of violent offenders.

Just recently, a nurse was assaulted and stabbed, and there have been a number of cases over the years where nurses have suffered near-fatal injuries at the hands of patients. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2004, 46 percent of nonfatal assaults and violent acts against health care practitioners that involved days off of work were committed against registered nurses. 

Despite this, Illinois law doesn’t protect nurses in the same manner as other professions.

Any battery against police officers, emergency medical technicians, and school employees is a felony. However, under current law, a battery against a nurse has a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine, while the maximum penalty for battering many other public employees is 5 years in a state correctional center and a $25,000 fine. 

This session, the Illinois Nurses Association met with legislators, wrote testimony, appeared in public, and advocated for a change in the law. Out of this effort, House Bill 801, the Nurse Protection Bill, was born.

The bill would increase the penalty for battery against a nurse to the same level as penalties and fines against other professions. The bill is an important step in decreasing violence against nurses, creating a safer and more effective health care system. 

The association was able to successfully lobby to get House Bill 801 through both the Illinois House and Senate, and it’s on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk for signature. We urge the governor to sign this bill and send a message to nurses, patients, and citizens that violence against nurses is no longer tolerated.

Note to readers – Alice J. Johnson is the executive director of the Illinois Nurses Association.

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