Nurses are the backbone of our health care system, yet our legal system doesn’t protect them against violence as it does other professions. In 2004, 46 percent of assaults and violent acts against health care practitioners that involved days off work were committed against registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Any battery against police officers, emergency medical technicians and school employees is a felony. Under current law, a battery against a nurse has a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. For other public employees, the maximum is five years and a $25,000 fine.

The Illinois Nurses Association set about to correct this disparity, and out of that effort, House Bill 801, the Nurse Protection Bill, was born. Nurses deserve to be supported and empowered, not sabotaged through outdated attitudes and weak laws.

House Bill 801, which passed the General Assembly this spring, brings the penalty for battery against a nurse in line with other professions. We urge Gov. Quinn to sign it and send a message that violence against nurses is no longer tolerated.

Alice J. Johnson

Executive director

Illinois Nurses Association