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Jan 26 2010

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Bill would make assault on nurses a felony

By Cara Matthews, LoHud.com

Senators approved legislation today that would increase penalties for individuals who injure or try to injure on-duty nurses. The penalty for assault on registered nurses and licensed practical nurses would be elevated to a class C or D felony. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

RNs and LPNs have the highest proportion of injuries among health-care workers. Each year, almost 500,000 nurses are victims of violent crimes in the workplace, including biting, hitting and shoving, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Nurses and other emergency medical professionals are often among the first to treat persons in need of medical assistance,” said Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee Chairwoman Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, who sponsored the bill.

“Unfortunately, countless acts of violence are inflicted upon nurses while in the line of duty, and currently, the law does not offer them the same protections as it offers other emergency medical professionals. By making these acts of violence against nurses a felony, an important standard will be set that violence against these medical professionals is not accepted and will not be tolerated,” Hassell-Thompson said.

Lawmakers noted that many hospitals are understaffed, which exacerbates the problem.

“Protection from violence and abuse is a very important component for increasing recruitment and retention of vital professionals in the health care field. We must continue to do our utmost to address the shortage of nurses in our workforce and to protect their health and safety,” said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.

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