ATLANTA — When Destiny heard screams, she raced to a hospital room where she saw a patient assaulting a care technician. As a charge nurse at Northeast Georgia Health System, she was trained to de-escalate violent situations.
But that day in spring 2021, as Destiny intervened, for several minutes the patient punched, kicked, and bit her. And by the time a team of security guards and other nurses could free her, the patient had ripped out chunks of Destiny’s hair.
“We are not protected on our floors,” she said as she recapped the story during testimony later that year to the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Violence Against Healthcare Workers. Destiny used only her first name at the hearing, for fear of retaliation for speaking out against the patient who assaulted her.
In May, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that boosts criminal penalties for assaults against hospital workers and allows health care facilities in the state to create independent police forces. The law is a response to that testimony as well as hospital lobbying and data documenting a rise in violence against health care workers. In enacting the law, Georgia joined other states attempting to reverse a rise in violence over the last several years through stiffer criminal penalties and enhanced law enforcement.
Nearly 40 states have laws that establish or increase penalties for assaults on health care workers, according to the American Nurses Ass …
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