Assaulting a health-care professional in New Jersey will result in stiffer penalties, thanks to a bill signed into law this week.
Until now, nurses and other health-care professionals were not protected by law in the same way police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that bumps up charges against a anyone who assaults a heath-care worker from simple to aggravated assault.
Carolyn Torre with the New Jersey State Nurses Association said the law finally acknowledges the day-to-day struggles of people in the medical field.
“I think that nurses and other health-care workers are going to feel relieved, that they are recognized as being included among first responders and among the people who may be victims of this kind of violence frequently,” she said.
Depending on the degree of the crime, an offender can face up to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
Sen. Fred Madden of Gloucester County was the primary sponsor. He said people who dedicate their lives to others deserve protection.
“The anger the excitement and sometimes the violence or the threat of violence moves out from the street into the emergency rooms and the hospital setting,” he said. “This bill will take a step forward to try to insure a higher level of accountability for those individuals who threaten or attempt to harm our nurses and medical care providers.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48 percent of all non-fatal assaults occurred in health care in 2000.