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Speaking Out Against Workplace Violence

In September, two of our members, Paula Stellabotte, RN from Altoona Regional Health System and Andrea Paganie, Development Specialist from Heritage Valley Staunton Clinic, testified before Harrisburg’s House Committee on Health in support of HB 1992, the Health Care Facilities Workplace Violence Prevention Act introduced by Rep. Nick Micozzie in November 2011. HB 1992 would require hospitals to assess their security risks, help each facility develop a plan to address its own risk factors, and help victims of violence report incidences.

“Since my facility has recently had some serious incidents of workplace violence, I felt empowered to take advantage of this unique opportunity.  Our state Capitol can be intimidating with its multitude of elected officials and their aides. However, once you spend time with them, you realize that they genuinely respect what we do, appreciate us coming to Harrisburg, and want to understand our issues.”

In her testimony, Paula spoke about incidents of violence within her own facility where nurses and other healthcare workers were assaulted by patients and about the increase in weapons brought to the hospital by patients and visitors. Andrea Paganie testified on the benefits of prevention measures called for in the bill that have been implemented in her own facility such as the development of a safety committee that gives frontline workers and management the opportunity to evaluate and respond to safety concerns and make changes to increase safety for their patients and their staff.  Through collaboration, engineering changes, increased safety education and policy revisions, Staunton Clinic provides a safer atmosphere for the betterment of the facility and community.

We believe HB 1992 is a step in the right direction but needs input from frontline healthcare workers to make it stronger. We need to file reports at work about the violence or threat of violence we face and share this data with our elected officials and our union so it can be assembled in one place.

Since  this legislative session has come to a close, we need to set a plan for passing this legislation next year.  We need to become active and tell our stories to our legislators like Paula and Andrea. It might be your own life that you ultimately save.

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