Mass. Nurses Association reacts to new Baystate Health code of conduct

One local medical center joins a growing number of hospitals in Massachusetts that are turning their focus to protecting healthcare providers from workplace vio
Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 10:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2023 at 11:13 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - One local medical center joins a growing number of hospitals in Massachusetts that are turning their focus to protecting healthcare providers from workplace violence.

Western Mass News spoke with one healthcare worker who told us that while a code of conduct is a small step in the right direction, it is not the solution to tackle the growing concerns over increased violence in hospitals.

Baystate Medical Center responded to the rising number of abusive behavior in hospitals. All patients and visitors now must follow a code of conduct, which requires them to treat healthcare workers with respect.

The Baystate Medical Center’s code of conduct prohibits:

  • Threatening, abusive, aggressive, bullying, or violent language or behavior
  • Discriminatory, disrespectful, harassing, or offensive language or behavior
  • Swears, slurs or remarks targeting another’s age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, disability, language, sexuality or sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, marital status, or ancestry
  • Possession of weapons, explosives, or firearms on Baystate property or in any Baystate Health facility
  • Possession or use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, medical marijuana, or illegal drugs on Baystate Health property or in any Baystate Health facility
  • Disruption of other patients’ care or experience
  • Taking photos or videos of patients, visitors, and/or staff without permission

This is something Baystate Medical Center President Sam Skura said is not unique to the medical center, but he hopes it will provide an added layer of safety for healthcare workers.

“The same level of respect and inclusivity that we offer to our patients should be offered back to providers and nurses and doctors across our clinics, our hospitals, and our doctors offices,” he said. “It’s about ensuring that we have an environment where they can come in every day and feel safe and respected.”

However, some said that while it is a great start, it is not enough to tackle such a concerning problem.

We spoke with the Chair of the Massachusetts’ Nurses Association Workplace Violence Prevention Task Force and registered nurse Karen Coughlin about the issue.

“We have many hospitals who have codes of conduct and we continue to have reports of workplace violence within those facilities,” she said. “It’s astounding to me that we continue to discuss this as opposed to taking action. Now is the time. I believe, our legislators can lead the way to make sure something is done to decrease the risk and provide a safe haven, which is what everyone needs.”

Last year, instances of verbal or physical abuse happened on average every 38 minutes in Massachusetts hospitals, according to a recent report from the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association. That number was 57 minutes back in 2020, and now, nurses here in the Bay State are feeling the impact of these numbers.

Coughlin told Western Mass News assaults are severely underreported ,and aside from legislation protecting healthcare workers, hospitals can increase de-escalation training, provide added lighting in parking lots, and require metal detectors inside hospitals.

At Baystate, visitors who violate the code of conduct may be asked to leave and patients may be asked to seek treatment elsewhere, as outlined in the code of conduct.