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Task force approves recommendations aimed at curbing violence against healthcare workers

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 7:34 PM CST
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A nurse and a patient in a hospital room.
A nurse and a patient in a hospital room.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard a lot about healthcare workers coming under attack and not just verbally.

Ahnyel Jones-Burkes, DNP, is chair of the Healthcare Workplace Violence Task Force in Louisiana and is part of the Louisiana State Nurses Association.

“No one should be afraid to go to work especially when they’re providing care for patients, especially in a pandemic setting,” said Jones-Burkes.

Recently, an Ochsner Health system nurse was attacked and knocked unconscious inside a hospital on the west bank of New Orleans.

“This incident that is all across the news that happened with the Ochsner nurse, that is not the only incident of workplace violence, that’s the incidence that is in the news right now. So, this happens very often and we’re really trying to shine light on it and put in things that can protect the health care provider.,” said Jones-Burkes.

On Friday, the task which includes not only healthcare professionals but also law enforcement representatives approved recommendations for the Louisiana Department of Health.

One of the recommendations is that healthcare settings post signs warning that abuse or assault of health workers is a serious crime.

“We were looking at what some other states have put into place where there’s actually signage that says it is a felony to assault a healthcare provider, healthcare worker. We do have the law in place where you assault a healthcare worker and it’s a list of everybody pretty much that touches the patient that, if they have to seek medical attention that it can be a felony, that it’s a felony,” said Jones-Burkes.

Another recommendation requires health care institutions to report violent acts against their staffers which occur on their property within 24 hours.

“My personal philosophy would be that all of these need to be reported within 24 hours,” said Karen Lyon, Ph.D., a member of the task force.

Jones-Burkes said, “We settled on 24 hours, so that was a big step for us because right now the way it’s set up a victim has to report and after you’ve been assaulted, or something has happened maybe that’s not the first thing that you are thinking that you are going to do.

Some victims have expressed fear of reporting the violence to authorities for fear of retaliation.

“I actually had a CEO call me and state that a lot of his nurses were afraid to report not because they didn’t feel like the organization would protect them but because they felt like the family would retaliate against them in a very small community in Louisiana,” Jones-Burkes stated.

Jones-Burkes was asked if violence against health care workers undermines efforts to hire more nurses. In Louisiana and around the country there is a shortage of nurses.

“It’s very hard to retain attract nurses if you have incidences of violence in the workplace,” said Jones-Burkes.

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