NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A nurses association wants increased penalties for people who attack nurses while they're on the job. It's a crime that's more common than people think, according to the Tennessee Nurses Association.
Their data shows that one in four nurses will be assaulted while on the job during their careers. A large portion of those assaults goes unreported, as some in the field believe it comes with the territory.
But it's something TNA wants to change; so, the organization is supporting a bill to increase assault penalties for people who try to hurt their nurses.
"At the end of the day we need to make sure that nurses are protected and if you physically assault a nurse and they are providing life-saving care," said Kathleen Murphy, spokesperson for TNA. "That nurse should not be having to choose between protecting their own life and giving the patient the care that they need."
Right now it's a class A misdemeanor for assault. However, this increases the penalty to a felony, class C. That's a $15,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
According to one nurse at Vanderbilt, it's not that uncommon.
"Unfortunately, I was strangled, punched, kicked, slapped and clawed in the emergency department," said nurse Jimm Closser.
Closser's attack happened in 2015, he says. He was caring for multiple patients at the time, but one of them became violent.
"I walked in to remove the tubing from the IV so we could get the patient up to the restroom and out of nowhere, I got hit in the face, grabbed my stethoscope and lanyard which I had around my neck and I didn't have a breakaway lanyard on," he said. "So, a security guard happened to be in the hallway and helped restrain the patient. But as we went down and fell to the bed the patient was screaming, I want to kill you."
While the patient was charged, it went nowhere over years in court and eventually no punishment was issued, he said.
Because of his case, he said colleagues are less likely to report if they're assaulted. It's a high-stress situation and Closser said sometimes it means a person will leave the medical field.
"When this happens to nurses and healthcare workers, they want to quit," said Closser.
He said he's hoping to testify in front of committees at the state legislature about the issue.