Workplace Violence

Nurses’ Risks Surprising
by Teddi Fine

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are not immune from workplace violence. But why are nurses the victims of physical and psychological violence twice as often as others in healthcare?

That’s what Hopkins nursing researchers Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN; Joan Kub, PhD, APHN, BC; and Daniel Sheridan, PhD, RN, wanted to know. Their survey of over 2,160 nurses, one of the largest U.S. studies to examine the risk factors for workplace violence among nurses, yielded both important and unexpected findings. [“Workplace Violence: Prevalence and Risk Factors in the Safe at Work Study,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, January 2011.]

Not surprisingly, where you work—particularly emergency rooms and psych units—elevates the risk for workplace violence. Surprisingly though, facilities for older adults generate particularly high levels of verbal abuse. Further, male nurses run a greater risk for violence than female nurses, which Sheridan thinks may result from the assignment of male nurses to more risky, potentially abusive patients and environments.

Perhaps most unexpected, one-fourth of physical violence and almost one-third of psychological violence is directed at nurses by patients’ relatives. Campbell says, “This is a type of workplace violence we don’t expect and don’t give our students and employees the tools to prevent or de-escalate. Identifying this and other risk factors for workplace violence against nurses is a first step toward reducing and, hopefully, eliminating the danger.”

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