Tennessee Nurses Association introducing new legislation, awareness about safety on job


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than 100 nurses from across the state are participating in Nurses Day on the Hill Tuesday.

The Tennessee Nurses Association is introducing its first piece of legislation in three years, an update to the Nurse Practice Act. The change will help Tennesseans get better access to healthcare. They will lobby on capitol hill to fight for their right to have Advanced Practice Nurses treat patients independently without a physician’s oversight.

“It will also open up access to some under-served areas and if you look at the literature in history, nurses like to practice where they live,” said Tina Gerardi, Executive Director of the Tennessee Nurses Association. “The big problem right now is there are not enough physicians to cover those collaborative agreements.”

Since 2010, the state has closed 13 hospitals, causing a lack of access to healthcare in some communities. Tennessee is one of 11 states with the highest level of restrictions on Advanced Practice Nurses.

Two days after a nurse at Tristar Centennial Medical Center was allegedly sexually assaulted, the group is speaking out about how they are working to prevent that from happening to anyone else in the future.

61-year-old Willis Birdwell was charged with sexual battery. He is accused of inappropriately touching a nurse and making several comments that made her feel uncomfortable. According to TNA, 1 in 4 nurses are assaulted at some point in their careers.

“Mainly it’s awareness and teaching nurses how to protect themselves,” Gerardi said. They are hoping to do all they can to prevent it, report it and prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law.

“I’m hoping the [hospitals] will flag charts of known offenders and that when patients have no trespass or known history of violence, that they’ll make sure that we are aware,” said Bobby Stewart, an Advanced Practice RN from Memphis who was assaulted by a patient.

Nurses Day on the Hill will conclude with a reception Tuesday evening. It could take several legislative sessions to see a resolution.

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