Local ER Doc Reacts to Governor Perry Signing Nurse Assault Bill

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A bill signed by Governor Perry focuses on harsher punishment for those who harm healthcare workers.

A newly-approved law enhances the penalties for assaults against emergency room staff while they're delivering care.

“In its nature emergency services means you deal with people having their worst day usually,” said St. Joseph ER Medical Director Brandon Lewis.

In the field of Emergency Services, ER doctor Brandon Lewis says someone else's actions on their bad day could potentially and inadvertently become a doctor's or nurse’s bigger issue.

"We have a lot of security, police officers and training on how to de-escalate potentially violent situations,” said Lewis. “But you can never know when that one person is going to act out when they shouldn't.”

While there's only so much you can do to prepare, new legislation recently signed by Governor Rick Perry will provide more protection inside the emergency room. A survey released by Emergency Nurses Association 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.

"For a long time the policemen, the firemen that serve us out in the community have been protected by the pre-existing law and now that protection extends to the providers working inside the hospital," said Lewis.

Those legal repercussions are due to what's called: House Bill 705. It's been the law that assaults on policeman or Fire and EMS who are at an incident is a third degree felony, but once the person was transported to the hospital, it would only be a misdemeanor for a patient to assault ER staff...until now.

"Unfortunately violence is a nation-wide thing, and the policeman, fireman and emergency responders see it out on the streets every day; we’re no exception,” said Lewis.

Doctor Lewis says enhancing the penalty against this type of violence would ensure an added level of safety to all emergency department personnel.

Texas is the 34th state to increase penalties for assault or battery on emergency department personnel. The law takes effect September 1st.