Emergency Nurses Association Applauds Texas Legislation that Raises Assaults Against Emergency Department Personnel to Third Degree Felony

Jun 19, 2013, 15:10 ET from Emergency Nurses Association

DES PLAINES, Ill., June 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) applauds the signing of a bill by Texas Governor Rick Perry that makes assaults committed against personnel who work in an emergency department a third degree felony. This legislation, Texas House Bill 705, authored by Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin, TX), will raise the penalty for those committing assaults against emergency nurses and other emergency department workers from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony. Both the Texas House and Senate unanimously approved this bill.

Despite increased security measures that have been put in place by Texas hospitals, violence against healthcare workers continued to climb. Representative Howard, understanding that assaults committed in the emergency department are one of the highest concerns of emergency nurses, was the driving force behind changing Texas legislation to protect emergency department personnel. San Antonio ENA President-elect and ENA Government Affairs member Mary Leblond, MSN, RN, CEN, CA-SANE, CP-SANE, led efforts to bring attention to this important public safety issue to the legislators in the state. In April, Ms. Leblond along with several other emergency nurses testified in favor of HB 705 before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Texas now joins 33 other states that already have an increased penalty for assault/battery on emergency department personnel.

Under the previous law, if police officers, paramedics, and emergency personnel treating someone at the scene of an accident were assaulted, their attacker could be charged with a third degree felony. However, those who assaulted an emergency nurse could only be charged with a misdemeanor. This new law now raises the penalty for assaults against emergency nurses and other emergency department personnel to that same level. 

A survey released  by ENA found that more than one in ten emergency nurses reported experiencing physical abuse over a seven day period, and more than half experienced verbal abuse in the workplace. Enhancing the penalty against this type of violence should ensure an added level of safety to all emergency department personnel. This additional protection will help with nurse retention and recruitment, during a time of nursing shortages.

"ENA's mission of Safe Practice, Safe Care, prompted engagement in this key issue, as the outcome significantly impacts emergency nurses," said 2013 ENA President, JoAnn Lazarus, MSN, RN, CEN. "Mary Leblond testified and played a major role in the passage of this piece of legislation. I commend both Representative Donna Howard and Mary Leblond for their efforts on behalf of all emergency nurses," commented Lazarus.

"This new law will give all Texas emergency nurses and personnel the increased level of protection they deserve", said Leblond. "I hope the work we have done will encourage those states that do not yet have this type of enhanced penalty in place to take action."

About the Emergency Nurses Association:
ENA, which has more than 40,000 members worldwide, is the only professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing and emergency care through advocacy, expertise, innovation and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA develops and disseminates education and practice standards and guidelines, and affords consultation to both private and public entities regarding emergency nurses and their practice. Additional information is available at ENA's Web site, www.ena.org.

SOURCE Emergency Nurses Association