Ground-Breaking Workplace Safety Benefit Designed to Protect Nurses from Needlesticks, Violence


Registered nurses at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, Calif. have approved a new agreement that most notably includes a precedent-setting needlestick and workplace violence insurance benefit funded by the employer, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced today. More than 600 RNs represented by CNA/NNU overwhelmingly voted to accept the pact in ratification membership meetings held on Wednesday and Thursday.

We have been fighting long and hard for workplace safety protections for our nurses, says Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of CNA/NNU government relations. An employer-paid insurance plan is one critical piece of a comprehensive program. The key to maintaining a safe work environment for RNs is training in violence prevention, prompt investigation into reported incidences, zero tolerance toward retaliation for reporting incidences of workplace violence; and safe staffing ratios at all times.

The benefit is an employer-paid enhanced accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance policy which includes benefits in the event of felonious assault, exposure to disease, such as hepatitis or HIV. All active full-time registered nurses, first-year graduate nurses or nurse practitioners working a minimum of 15 hours per week are covered. Bereavement and trauma counseling, psychological therapy, travel assistance is also part of the covered benefits, in addition to payment for injuries and/or accidents that occur to a nurse while working.

Nurses are combating incidents of workplace violence in their hospitals across the country in increasing numbers. A 2010 study, by the Emergency Nurses Association, found that between eight and 13 percent of emergency department nurses are victims of violence every week. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 500,000 nurses fall victim to workplace violence every year.

Needlestick injuries are also contributing to the overall burden of healthcare worker injuries. A 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study estimated than an average of 385,000 needlestick injuries occur annually in U.S. hospitals, with most reported incidents involving nursing staff. Needlesticks can expose nurses to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, and hepatitis B and C viruses.

Hospital RNs are working in an increasingly hazardous environment, says critical care RN Tonya Reed. In the course of a shift nurses are repeatedly exposed to harmful infections and potentially aggressive and mentally unstable patients. The key is to keep us safe, but our new benefit gives us additional piece of mind in the event something terrible happens.

The new contract includes patient care protections such as an improved floating policy that assures only critical care trained RNs will take care of critical care patients and preceptor pay to improve training and retention of new nurses. Preserving the cost and quality of healthcare benefits, as well as salary increases ranging from 7.5 percent to 20 percent over the three years of the agreement were also part of the agreement.     

Centinela is operated by Prime, a for-profit chain owned by Prem Reddy, MD. The contract expires on Nov. 30, 2015.


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