Bill seeks to prevent workplace violence on healthcare workers

Image 1 of 3

Karen Lenz is a registered nurse who works on the cardiac floor at Ann Arbor's University of Michigan hospital. She says violence against nurses is more common than you think.

In fact, studies show healthcare workers suffer 69 percent of all workplace violence injuries. Lenz has witnessed it first-hand.

"A hospital is where emotions are always running really high," she said. "There's lots of conflict that comes in and everybody is on edge. Of course it is the mentally ill people, but if you are going into a hospital for surgery - and if you are coming off of general anesthesia, you are not in your right mind. 

"We have patients with dementia, we have patients that get delirious from the length they stay in the hospital and some other things. So the violence can be from the patients, but it is also from the people coming to see them."

Lenz, who is also a member of the Michigan Nurses Association, is applauding a bipartisan bill just introduced by the Senate that would help reduce violence against health care workers.

It would require hospitals, public health departments and certain other healthcare settings to create a workplace violence prevention plan that would include training employees on the policies, de-escalation and prevention techniques and to report the violence. Workers who report the incidents against them would also be protected from retaliation.

"Every nurse I know has dealt with it on some level, some form of violence, whether from a patient, a family member or a visitor, something," she said. "We are just trying to find ways to prevent that from happening."

Only a handful of hospitals, mostly in Detroit, have metal detectors for patients and visitors - which means security guards are their only form of protection. This bi-partisan plan puts the focus where it belongs - stopping the violence before it happens.

This bill is not about one solution. Each hospital would need to come up with a plan for possible violence or incidents it experiences.