ENA ‘disappointed’ by California governor’s veto of workplace violence legislation

By | 2015-10-14T15:15:14-04:00 October 14th, 2015|7 Comments

The Emergency Nurses Association expressed disappointment in California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto AB 172, legislation that would have increased penalties for violence against healthcare personnel committed within an ED, according to a statement released by the ENA. “We are disappointed in the governor’s veto as we worked tirelessly in hopes that California would become the 33rd state to increase penalties for workplace violence, recognizing that violence directed at emergency nurses should never be tolerated,” said ENA President Matthew F. Powers, BSN, MS, RN, MICP, CEN, in the statement.

Under current California law, an assault or battery against a physician or nurse rendering emergency medical care outside of a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, one year of jail time or both. However, if an assault or battery occurs inside the healthcare facility, the crime is punishable with a maximum of six months in jail. Had AB 172 passed, the bill would have made penalties for a battery committed against a physician, nurse or other healthcare worker of a hospital engaged in providing services within the ED similar to those committed outside of hospital grounds. “We believe emergency healthcare providers should be afforded the same protection against workplace violence inside a healthcare facility as they are outside,” said the ENA statement. “This bill was unanimously passed by both the California State Assembly and Senate earlier this year.”

According to a statement from Gov. Brown to the California State Assembly, the governor does not believe a longer sentence for such offenses would be a deterrent to offenders. “Emergency rooms are overcrowded and often chaotic,” Gov. Brown said in the statement. “I have great respect for the work done by emergency room staff and I recognize the daunting challenges they face every day. If there were evidence that an additional six months in county jail (three months, once good-time credits are applied) would enhance the safety of these workers or serve as a deterrent, I would sign this bill. I doubt that it would do either.”

The ENA stated that research released in the Journal of Emergency Nursing shows more than 70% of emergency nurses encountered physical or verbal assault by patients or visitors while they were providing care in the emergency setting. Several factors such as long wait times, patient boarding, patients with a history of violence and patients under the influence of drugs or alcohol significantly contributed to the violence, according to the journal.

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About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for Nurse.com from Relias. She develops and edits content for the Nurse.com blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the Nurse.com Digital Editions. She has more than 25 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.


  1. Avatar
    Dan Medgar October 20, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Just another person with no respect for nurses or what they do. Be sure to remember that California nurses when election time comes. Give him the “View” treatment and maybe the next Governor will think twice about dissing nurses.

    • Avatar
      Steve Matteson October 20, 2015 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      And people ask me why I left Calif.

  2. Avatar
    Chris M October 20, 2015 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Alright then, Governor, what is your solution?

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    C Paolillo October 20, 2015 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    I have worked in a busy Ed for the past 12 years of my 30 year career and we have a zero tolerance policy. If A patient or visitor are verbally aggressive, our well trained security staff escort them off the property. We assure the patient is medically cleared before we boot them, of course. If the patient is a voluntary hold, our physicians do not hesitate to medicate. We still have physical assaults but far and few between. We have instituted CPI training which has proven to be effective. I have seen a huge decrease in violence with the use of CPI. As a health care professional, I have been assaulted by a little old lady with dementia. Just stand back, assess each situation and protect yourself. Jail time is extreme. If you are injured, I feel as though the assailant can be prosecuted whether it occurs in or out of a facility. If we need this “law” passed to threaten, consider the person. Scare tactics do not work because they have untreated mental illness or are under the influence and frankly, they don’t care. What can work is revoking privileges as cell phones, visitors and use of tv. They catch on quickly when they are not calling the shots. I prefer to let them know that I am in charge and when their behavior improves, I will be back and we can negotiate. This doesn’t always work but it’s a good way to start.

    • Avatar
      Jonathan Bestwick May 3, 2016 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      to sit and negotiate about cell phones and tv in an emergency department????? there is no tv where i work but there is plenty of drama. as a nurse with decades of experience there is no doubt of the escalation of violence n healthcare. hospitals have policies but they do nothing when patients and family members turn violent. negotiating does nothing when you are hostage against a physical threat that is actively directed towards your or other patients.
      criminal actions and intent are the issue here. the law ( or lack thereof) shows how pitiful the protection is for those that serve the public interest, health, and safety.
      nurses should have the same protection as police in this regard. will Governor Brown rescind the felony standard of attacking the police officer serving in the line of duty? Of course not!!!! he doesn’t want the police associations to turn on him during the election years!!!!
      as nurses we can choose to continue as the martyr or sacrificial lamb. continuing with a negated process, lack of protection and lack of appropriate punishment strengthens the idea that we are worthless in the eyes of the offender. if you hit your spouse you go to jail.. period. same punishment for the person who assaults a nurse or healthcare provider. let the courts sort it out and get a record of it.
      case in point .. of the multiple thousands of assaults that occur less than 10-20% get reported to OSHA and the police the california hospital association feels it is more appropriate to “file them” as an unusual occurrence event that never sees the light of day.. that is why they don’t want UORs written in the chart as they are now disclosed if legal matters take place and can be subpoenaed they just want to keep that dirty little secret hidden..and God forbid you document something in your nurses note narrative!! get ready for that ” special meeting in your manager department discussing what is and isn’t appropriate for documentation.
      no as far as i am concerned they better provide me with a law that has some teeth.

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    Mark G October 21, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Very unfortunate decision on behalf of Jerry Brown. Although I agree with comments above that certain situations can be controlled by your approach and considering each patient individually in other situations we need to know that someone has our back when a patient is physically assaulting staff. The day Jerry Brown gets kicked in the face by an out of control patient that he is attempting to restrain might be the day he has enough sense to support the front line workers in these issues.

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    Karen denton November 18, 2015 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    This needs to be addressed to your congressmen…ED have a federal law that we must care for patients..this would the fall under federal law

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