AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Former nurse and State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) is leading a bipartisan push in the Texas House to improve the safety of Texas nurses.

HB 112 would require hospitals to have a violence prevention plan in place and would make it easier for hospital staff to report violent incidents to police. Howard presented the bill to the House Public Health Committee on Monday.

“I have experienced violence myself, which is a very common thing to happen, actually, in the healthcare setting,” she told KXAN. “You have patients who have cognitive impairments, who were on certain medications. Even though we recognize that this is a part of the job, it’s not a part of the job to accept violence.”

The push comes as new data portrays the difficult reality of nursing in Texas.

The Texas Hospital Association reports a staggering 98% of hospitals report violence has increased or stayed the same since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 61% of hospitals also report violent incidents have become more severe.

Nurses said the threat of violence contributes to the nursing shortage in Texas.

“Nurses experience a lot of mental anguish,” said registered nurse Mary Vitullo, who also sits on the board of directors of the Texas Nurses Association. “I think that it’s time for us to come together and pass a bill that is going to protect nurses so nurses can protect the people of Texas.”

The Texas Hospital Association’s report also shows 64% of hospitals are operating with empty beds and reduced services because they do not have enough nurses. Almost one in six nursing positions are currently vacant.

“It’s a hard job, and to have to also deal with the possibility of being injured, having verbal abuse on a constant basis, it’s just absolutely something that makes it less appealing to some to go into nursing in the first place and then to stay once we’re there,” Rep. Howard said.

Howard is authoring the bill with three Republicans. The bill was left pending in committee on Monday.