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Nurses Push to Prevent Workplace Violence

Mary Shedden
The Florida Channel
Dozens of nurses rallied on the streets of Tampa's Ybor City Tuesday to push for more workplace safety rules for health care workers.

Members of a Tampa-based nurses’ union on Tuesday rallied against the physical and emotional abuse they say is an all-too-common occupational hazard.

The U.S. Department of Labor says that in 2010, more than 11,000 health care and social workers were the victims of workplace violence. Louise Eastty, an intensive care unit nurse for 15 years, said she’s seen co-workers attacked physically by patients, and has been verbally abused countless times.

Credit Mary Shedden / Health News Florida
The Florida Channel
Pasco County hospital nurse Louise Eastty spoke at Tuesday's rally on workplace violence.

“When family and patients themselves come in, it's a very stressful situation being sick,” the Pasco County nurse said. “Various things are going on -- life and death sometimes -- so it does lead to increased anxiety, increased stress, but people have to realize that the health care worker is not a punching bag. We're there to heal, not to be hurt.”

The National Nurses Organizing Committee rally in Tampa's Ybor City pushed Florida’s legislature for a law that would require hospitals to provide adequate training and protection. The committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United.

Bonnie Castillo is the union's associate executive director. She says the Florida law they are asking for mirrors a 2014 California law creating violence prevention plans in all hospitals.

“Our legislation is designed to prevent and not to criminalize our patients. We are patient advocates,” said Castillo, a California nurse. “And we understand that the hospitals bear the responsibility for ensuring the hospitals are safe for patients, for nurses, and for everyone.”

So far, the proposal has no sponsors in either Florida's Senate or House of Representatives.

--Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden is part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa. Contact her at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or at Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.