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  • ACOEM Express Support for Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act

    June 24, 2014

    The Honorable John Conyers
    U.S. House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Mr. Conyers:

    We are writing to express our appreciation for your sponsorship of HR 2480, the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2013.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has identified health care workers as a segment of the workforce at serious risk of harm from patient handling work duties. As you well know, while injury rates are generally declining, most recent Department of Labor data indicates a six percent increase in days away from work for health care workers due to injury. The median age of nurses across the nation is rising, and the physical demands of the job continue unabated. High injury rates lead to early retirement, which compounds the shortage of experienced nurses. Evidence shows that improper handling of patients leads not only to worker injury but also impaired quality of care for vulnerable patients, including falls and pressure ulcers.

    Thus, we strongly support HR 2480, which would direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an occupational safety and health standard to reduce injuries to all health care workers and patients. While many states have adopted similar legislation, the lack of uniformity and enforcement begs the question of a national standard. The ACOEM specialty section of Medical Center Occupational Health has formed a task force to develop a position paper on this topic with particular attention to the essential elements of and barriers to formation of an effective safe patient handling program. Our members would be available to you in support of your sponsored bill. I make that offer now due to the urgency at hand, even before our position paper is published. We would be willing to act as expert witnesses, resources for data and relevant anecdotes that would support and illustrate the gravity of this issue.

    ACOEM represents more than 4,000 physicians and other health care professionals specializing in the field of occupational and environmental medicine. Founded in 1916, ACOEM is the nation's largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, disability management, research, and education.

    We applaud you for standing up for the health and safety of our nation’s healthcare workers. Please let us know how we can assist you in this endeavor, and please do not hesitate to contact Pat O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs, at 202-223-6222, if ACOEM can be of further assistance.

    Sincerely,

    Kathryn Mueller, MD, MPH, FACOEM
    President

    Melanie Swift, MD
    Chair, Section on Medical Center Occupational Health