When nurses face violence

By Carrie Johnson • Published: April 20th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There are a few jobs that are considered inherently dangerous. Police officer. Firefighter. Long line fisherman. Not to mention bomb diffuser. But nurse? Believe it or not, a new study shows that nurses are frequently the target of workplace violence. In fact, more than ninety percent have suffered physical or verbal abuse at some point during their careers, according to a new study.

For the survey, one-hundred and thirteen nurses were interviewed. Most of them were female and in their early forties. They had been in the profession for an average of about eighteen years. Collectively, they reported more than twenty-three hundred incidents of workplace violence, with many of them facing between two and forty-six instances per year.

Ninety-two percent said they had been verbally abused by patients, while sixty-nine percent were threatened with physical violence. About half said they had been assaulted, and forty percent were involved in an incident where a weapon was present.

The number and nature of the incidents varied depending on the departments in which the nurses worked. Perhaps not surprisingly, those who worked in the emergency and mental health departments reported the highest rate of violence, while midwives and pediatric staff had virtually none.

Perhaps most alarming: The nurses said they only reported about one in six incidents to authorities because they believed workplace violence was a part of their jobs.

The researchers say they hope this study will help experts determine why nurses report some incidents and not others. Ultimately, that could help create a safer… and healthier… workplace.