Violence, typically that is not the first thing individuals think of when they find out someone is a nurse. Nurses care for people when they ill, why would anyone want to harm them? That’s the response one might hear when the topic is brought up, however violent acts towards nurses are more common than not and often go unreported. According to Sharma RK, Sharma V (2016) it is estimated that more than 80 percent of assaults on registered nurses are unreported. Violence in the workplace according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is defined as “violent acts (including physical assaults and threats of assaults) directed toward persons at work or on duty.
Because nurses take care of a range of different patients, each with their own problems which can range from traumatic events such as injuries, mental instability such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse overdoses or withdrawals. Whatever the reason may be or whatever floor they may be on, it is important for nurses to be vigilant of their surroundings and be able to cue in on escalating emotions or behaviors that could possible lead to violence.
Some health care organization such as psychiatric facilities, provide nurses additional training based on recognizing cues that a patient may exhibit prior to becoming violent, as well as admission questions related to triggers to avoid. Although it may be harder in some areas of health care to include such questions like triggers to avoid, training and educating nurses on behavioral cues it is still important for them to attempt to implement such things to help reduce violent acts. This would also improve a nurses overall emotional status, reduce stressors and improve job satisfaction. Such actions are also suggested by The Joint Commission but are not mandated, leaving the decision to implement such things up to the health care organizations.
In 2014, California law makers passed bill in regards to workplace violence prevention, (Patricia Pridge Gooch, 2017) stated that the legislation requires hospitals and other health care settings to implement written strategic prevention plans and broaden the identification and reporting of incidents related to WPV. Also included in the law is a minimum staff education requirement and formal risk identification and mitigation plans. Many nurses know about this law and according to the American Nurses Association fully support the bill and would like to see it implemented in all states, and in March of 2018 H.R. 5223-Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act was introduced into congress by Rep. Ro Khanna, however even with all the support and evidence in California to back up the success of the law no progress on the law moving forward has been made according to the congressional website.
Even with additional measures being put into place violence towards nurses will continue to happen unfortunately but reducing and preventing the opportunities is key. Doing so will help health care organizations with staffing issues, which also is an important aspect of prevention, it helps reduce emotional and physical exhaust that in turn even with training and education could alter one’s ability to use those skills and open up opportunities for violence.
- Sharma RK, Sharma V (2016) Work Place Violence in Nursing. J Nurs Care 5: 335. doi:10.4172/2167-1168.1000335
- The Joint Commission. Physical and verbal violence against health care workers. Sentinel Event Alert, 2018;59
- Gooch, P. (Pidge). (2018). Hospital Workplace Violence Prevention in California: New Regulations. Workplace Health & Safety, 66(3), 115–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/2165079917731791
- Phillips JP. Workplace violence against health care workers in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2016; 374:1661-9.