This article was originally published by NewsChannel5 Nashville. To read the original story, click here.
As of July 1, Tennessee law has made it a felony to assault nurses. Governor Bill Lee signed the new measure into law in June. The penalty for assault on a nurse has changed from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony. A Class C felony is punishable by a fine of $15,000 and a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days.
Nurses are very familiar with the reality that many risks come with the profession. They are often in high-stress environments and in close contact with patients who are sick, injured, and distraught. This leads to unpredictable outcomes, some of which can be dangerous to healthcare professionals.
“Nursing is a challenging, difficult job already and we really don’t need assault added into our daily work as hard as it is,” said Julie Hamm, from Tennessee Nurses Association. “It’s really stressful for nurses and just having this bill added just adds an additional layer of protection to nurses and one that should be there as we’re working hard.”
To present their case to lawmakers, the nurses association brought in a nurse, Jimmy Closser, to share his personal experience of assault.
“In 2015, I was taking care of three patients in the emergency department,” he said to a State House committee. “I had two critical patients, one that was less critical, I was helping the patient request to get up and use the restroom. When I entered I was detaching some of the IV tubing and all of the sudden out of nowhere I was punched multiple times in the face I was then grabbed by my lanyard which unfortunately wasn’t a detachable lanyard and I had my stethoscope around my neck. So, both of those things pulled me down, we went down to the bed and increased the tightness around my neck. The patient kept saying ‘I want to kill you, I hope you effing die.'”
Jimmy Closser sharing this experience helped the push since it was signed by Governor Lee.
“Several nurses that I’ve heard stories about have actually been stabbed with pens, choked with wires, we have a lot of wires, a lot of equipment in our hospitals that patients can pick up and use against us in our hospitals, unfortunately,” said Hamm.
Hamm said injuries or mental stress can cause nurses to take time off to recover. She said hospitals, such as Vanderbilt, typically take assault very seriously and will pursue attackers legally.
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