Emergency Physicians Call on Congress to Help Stop Violence in Health Care

ACEP, ENA and ANA Encourage Stronger Protections for Health Care Workers

Leaders from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) joined forces Friday on Capitol Hill to emphasize the need for passage of legislation designed to mitigate the frequency and severity of workplace violence in health care.

During a briefing for congressional staffers, the representatives of the three organizations used data and storytelling to build understanding of the impact this ongoing crisis has on health care workers and patients, a situation that is particularly dire in emergency departments which serve as the health care safety net and are open all day, every day.

Among the data highlighted:

  • The rate of serious injuries related to workplace violence is six-times higher for hospital workers compared to all other private sector employees in the United States.
  • Studies show emergency nurses and other members of the emergency care team experience a violent event once every two months on average.
  • Of the nearly 500 members who responded to an ENA survey this year, 56 percent said they had been either verbally assaulted, threatened with violence or physically assaulted in the previous 30 days.
  • A Press-Ganey analysis found two nurses were assaulted every hour.
  • A 2022 ACEP survey reported 85 percent of emergency physicians believe the rate of violence in the ED has increased over the previous five years.

The trio also discussed the importance of two bills pending in Congress – The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act and the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act – that, respectively, would bolster workplace violence mitigation efforts and make it a federal crime to assault a hospital employee.

“We have to make sure that front-line health care workers are safe and able to provide patients with the lifesaving care that they need and deserve,” said Aisha Terry, MD, MPH, FACEP, president of ACEP. “We are vulnerable to threats and violence, and we are encouraged by those who join our call for stronger protections. Fortunately, these bills can help protect health care workers on the job and take important steps to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.”

“As an emergency nurse for 30 years, I understand what violence in the ED looks like – I have experienced it personally and watched countless co-workers victimized all while simply trying to care for patients,” said ENA President Chris Dellinger, MBA, BSN, RN, FAEN. “Getting kicked, punched, slapped, spit on or attacked with objects is not a part of the job. It cannot be tolerated any longer.”

ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA, FAAN said, “Violence against health care professionals – the very people who are entrusted to care for the sick and encourage healing - is absolutely unacceptable and reprehensible. Passage of federal legislation to protect our nurses and other health care workers and keep them safe is something the American Nurses Association will never stop advocating for, and it is long overdue.

“It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure workplace safety and security, but sadly in many health care settings nurses are still experiencing violence at alarming rates. Too many of my fellow nurses’ lives have already been lost to workplace violence. We need to act now to break the deadly cycle of violence against health care professionals. And these bills that we are currently supporting in Congress is a step in that direction,” said Kennedy.

A recording of the briefing can be viewed here.


About the Emergency Nurses Association

The Emergency Nurses Association is the premier professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing through advocacy, education, research, innovation, and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA has proven to be an indispensable resource to the global emergency nursing community. With nearly 50,000 members worldwide, ENA advocates for patient safety, develops industry-leading practice standards and guidelines, and guides emergency health care public policy. ENA members have expertise in triage, patient care, disaster preparedness, and all aspects of emergency care. Additional information is available at www.ena.org.

ENA Media Contact: Dan Campana 847-460-4017 dan.campana@ena.org

About the American Nurses Association

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's more than 5 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all.

ANA Media Contact: Keziah Proctor Keziah.proctor@ana.org

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education, and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org

Contact: Steve Arnoff | sarnoff@acep.org | Twitter @EmergencyDocs