Tennessee bill to add nurses back to the aggravated assault code

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“Nurses are not only first responders, but last responders.”

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee nurses are calling for support of a bill that will add a level of protection for them, increasing fines for assaults while on the job.

Violence against healthcare workers has become a rising epidemic, according to the Tennessee Nurses Association. Just last week, five employees were attacked at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital.

Nurses said that it is a call that happens more often than many may realize.

“It’s crazy to me that it keeps happening, and it’s ok, and everybody seems ok with it. We as nurses are kind of like, it’s out of our hands like we can only do so much,” said a nurse from St. Thomas who wanted to remain anonymous.

One in four nurses are assaulted on the job, according to the Tennessee Nurses Association, yet the majority go unreported as some believe it comes with the territory.

“We just do as much as we can and try to look out for each other, honestly we are kind of like on our own. I had a family member get very aggressive with another nurse and this person was let back in on our floor the next day, so there are really no repercussions, no consequences for when they are aggressive or violent in behaviors,” explained the nurse.

Last August, Tennessee’s legislation regarding assault against a first responder was rewritten, and healthcare providers, such as nurses were left out. That’s why State Representative Jesse Chism is sponsoring a bill that will add nurses back to the aggravated assault code.

“Nurses, especially here during this pandemic, nurses have been not only on the front lines of this pandemic they’ve also been the gatekeepers of the health of this state, so the bill’s primary purpose was putting nurses in a proper posture as first responders,” Rep. Chism said.

The legislation will help nurses feel more empowered to report attacks. The Tennessee Nurses Association says assaults against nurses will not be tolerated.

The legislation increases the penalty to a class C felony, a $15,000 fine, and 90 days in jail. The bill will go before the full criminal justice committee next week.

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