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Lansing healthcare workers say they face violence on the job and want lawmakers to step in

Unions are working with lawmakers to put protections in place for healthcare workers assaulted on the job
Posted at 8:42 AM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 08:48:05-05

LANSING, Mich. — Lansing-area healthcare workers say they face workplace violence, and they’re asking state lawmakers to step in and do something about it.

Michelle Lopez is an emergency room technician at McLaren Greater Lansing. She’s been working in healthcare for over 20 years.

Two weeks ago, she said, a patient punched her several times in the face and stabbed a doctor who tried to help her.

“As I said stop, he hit me in my face three times. At that point I bent down to protect my face. I wear a hat at work and he grabbed that trying to pull at my hair,” said Lopez.

Lopez says she cried when she went to brush her hair and noticed a bald spot caused by the assault.

She says this kind of thing happens too frequently and she’d like lawmakers to step in.

“We just need the lawmakers to be like, lets step up to try to help these healthcare workers. Its mind-boggling that no one speaks out about it,” said Lopez.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reported that healthcare workers are four times more likely to experience significant violence than the workforce as a whole, and the problem is compounded by the fact that hospitals are required to treat anyone seeking medical care, even those who have been violent with staff.

Unions are aware of this issue and are working toward solutions.

“The Michigan Nurses Association is working on legislation on a workplace violence prevention bill. I know that the Michigan Hospital Association is working on another bill and together they’d be amazing protection for everyone,” said Katie Pontifex of the Michigan Nurses Association.

The Michigan Nurses Association bill would require employers to have a workplace violence prevention plan in place, training for all hospital employees and reporting guidelines for all of the instances that happen.

Sparrow Health System says workplace violence is an issue there and they have a system used by workers called Code BERT to help.

“Its the Behavioral Emergency Response Team. It activates a social worker, a nurse leader and a security officer. We try to help the caregiver in that moment,” said Sparrow Chief Nursing Officer Amy Brown.

Lopez said there is going to be a Million Nurse March in Washington, D.C. in May, and one of the main issues attendees will address is workplace violence.

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