Violence against Emergency Department staff is a major problem. I have been an EMT in the State of Texas for 5 years, and the worst, most consistent violence by patients against their caregivers I have witnessed was when I worked as a Patient Care Technician in an Emergency Department in Central Texas. It was an almost daily occurrence. A 2010 CNN Health article entitled "Bitten, shot, spat on: Violence in hospitals common for staff" outlines how this is a national problem, not isolated to one region or facility. The "Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study" published by the Emergency Nurses Association in November 2011 demonstrated that among 7,169 emergency nurses surveyed, 54.5% had experienced verbal abuse and/or physical violence in the previous 7-day period; 12.1% had actually been physically assaulted. Nearly all physical assaults (97.8%) were committed by patients against their caregivers. Of those, 73.1% were perceived by their victims to be lucid at the time of the assault.
The American College of Emergency Physicians policy statement entitled "Protection from Physical Violence in the Emergency Department Environment" states, "Maximum criminal prosecution will be pursued against those individuals who commit violent acts against health care workers, when deemed appropriate, based on the circumstances of the incident." Furthermore, it concludes, "ACEP recognizes that the EMS system is an integral component of emergency care and supports and encourages efforts to protect EMS personnel against physical violence in the prehospital environment." Texas state law already recognizes assault against EMS and other emergency personnel in the prehospital environment as a felony offense. Please pass House Bill 705 into law so that all emergency responders, no matter the environment in which they work, will be protected against physical assault in the discharge of their duties.