NY law makes violence against nurses a felony

By: November 8th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Handling difficult patients is expected by those going into the nursing profession, but most don’t expect to be physically attacked. Nurses are routinely spit on, kicked, shoved, and verbally abused by patients, and a recent law in New York now classifies such actions as felonies.

On Tuesday, November, 2, The Violence Against Nurses law went into effect in New York state, offering nurses the same protection as provided to police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, reports the (Albany) Times-Union. Patients who physically attack nurses could serve seven years in prison.

Eileen Avery is the associate director of education, practice, and research at the New York Nurses Association. She believes that nurses are going to feel empowered by this new law, while also acknowledging that nurses know that physical altercations come with the profession.

A study by the Emergency Nurses Association found that between 8% and 13% of ED nurses experience physical violence each week from their patients, the Times-Union reported. The study surveyed 3,211 nurses from May 2009-2010. It also found that having safety precautions such as panic buttons and alarms reduced physical violence, and areas that were well lit decreased acts of violence.

Have you ever been attached by a patient? What actions does your healthcare facility take when a nurse is physically attacked?

Protect your staff and patients from violence in the emergency department. Violence in healthcare—like the recent incident at Johns Hopkins Hospital—is on the rise. Join HCPro for Violence in the ED: Proven Strategies to Keep Your Facility Safe, a 90-minute Webcast where you’ll learn a five-step approach to keeping your staff and patients safe. Our experienced speakers will also guide you through regulatory requirements related to workplace violence and provide action plans to train staff to handle unruly patients and prevent dangerous situations.


I have been bitten, kicked, slapped, cursed at and verbally abused so many times I have lost count. And that’s just the patients. I worked in Psych and Long Term Care, I can’t imagine the violence in the ED.

If I listed everytime I have been verbally abused, and intimidated by physicians the list would double.

I’m a nurse for 6 years and I have been verbally abused over and over again. Recently, I was called a Mother [expletive deleted] Spanish Nurse….and then the patient called risk management and said she was scarded of me….and they wrote me up and suspended me…..i didnt do anything. I couldnt even defend myself….why is it that if I were in the outside world I could have filed charges and on the job I have to take the abuse.Its not only me but my co-workers too but all are afraid to loose their jobs so everyone keeps quite….I want things to change and the law on our side we need help! After reading this article I want the same for NJ….please let me know what I can do …thankyou. Cynthia

By David LaHoda on November 15th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

It’s too bad that your employer is not more supportive.

I have to correct you on one point. Your contention: “Why is it that if I were in the outside world I could have filed charges and on the job I have to take the abuse..” is, in my opinion incorrect. I doubt that you could file charges for being called what you claim, even in NJ.

But your employer should have a workplace violence prevention policy that covers verbal abuse.

I know the American Nurses Association has identified workplace violence prevention as one of its key points for advocacy. I know because I interviewed the president of the association for the December Medical Environment Update.

By Nick Geraci, LPN on December 13th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

As a nurse in a long term care facility in upstate NY, I am often reminded that it is our CNA’s (certified nursing assistants), that are on the front lines of workplace violence. I have seen aides kicked, punched, spat on and more. When we consider legislation to protect those who have chosen to care for others, we must include ALL healthcare providers. Since in many settings , the support staff is actually responsible for the caring and bathing of the patient, it seems logical that any new law protecting nurses should most definately protect any member of the healthcare team who may be subject to violence. All to often, its is implied by nurse managers and nursing supervisors that dealing with difficult patients is just “part of the job.” I would argue that the level of violence in the long term care setting is grossly unchecked. Furthermore, many facilities seem ill prepared to handle the growing number of violent seniors. The violence I have seen our aides endure would be considered assault and battery outside the confines of our facility. Finally, if we are to believe the ridiculous notion that this violence is “part of the job”, then tell me, why is it not part of our orientation and training? WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR SUPPORT STAFF WITH LEGISLATION AS WELL. OUR HOSPITALS, NURSING HOMES AND ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES COULD NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT THEM!


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