by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations
It’s rare if ever we hit your inbox twice in one week, but this special VAHHS Update is worthy of its own e-mail from us at VAHHS – because it deals with an issue of huge consequence in health care: workplace violence.
You’ve heard from me countless times over the past several years on the issue of workplace violence and the need for greater public awareness and policies that strengthen the supports for our health care workers. We have made some progress, but more must be done to stop this pattern of verbal assault, anger and physical violence towards caregivers.
Our colleagues at the University of Vermont Health Network recently shared this heart wrenching and deeply compelling video editorial in the New York Times about violence in health care. It gives a raw, personal perspective on what hospitals and health systems are increasingly facing here in Vermont and across the country. The NYT piece features health care workers – our friends, neighbors and colleagues – telling their personal and traumatic stories of being kicked, beaten and knocked unconscious all while doing their jobs. I urge you to watch it. Then I urge you to help us stop it from happening again.
At VAHHS, we have worked with our hospitals and other health care providers to center the issue with lawmakers and advocate for legislation to make important changes to our laws that empower and protect health care workers. This work includes:
- This past year, VAHHS worked with lawmakers to pass S. 36, which, makes it possible for a law enforcement officer to arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed certain crimes against health care workers in hospitals or against emergency medical treatment providers. The act also enhances the penalty for the crime of threatening health care workers. We thank the legislature and the administration for enacting this law so that health care workers don’t have to wait until the unthinkable happens before they can protect themselves.
- VAHHS led a forum for policy makers and others interested in the health care system so health care professionals could share their stories and lawmakers could better understand the issue from those closest. Videos from that forum can be found in this YouTube playlist. The stories they shared—from hospitals throughout Vermont—are very powerful.
- VAHHS conducted a public information campaign earlier this year featuring an award-winning public service announcement highlighting the problem of disrespect and violence in the health care workplace. This PSA was shared across the country as other health care systems face the same challenges.
- The work continues. The Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care will issue a report to the legislature this session with further recommendations on ways to reduce workplace violence.
The statistics on violence against health care workers at five times greater than other professions is staggering. It reminds us that we have to keep this issue front and center with the public and with state officials until we once again reach a time when violence is the exception and not the rule in our hospitals. In order to get there, we need everyone to help. Please share the NYT video editorial and our PSA on your social channels, distribution lists and among your networks. Visit our website for resources and toolkits. Please talk about this issue with our elected officials so they know it matters to you. And, very importantly, remind your friends and neighbors to be kind to caregivers.
Thank you for taking the time to engage with us on this critical issue. Our health care workers deserve nothing less than our respect, honor and gratitude.