There is a consensus in the international literature that workplace violence…directed at nurses is increasing and that nursing is one of the professions most ‘at risk.’
A recent study found that 75% of the nurses had been involved in 1 or more incidents of workplace violence in the last 12 months and reported a total of 2354 incidents. A fourth of the respondents said they had experienced violent incidents weekly, 27% monthly, and 25% once every 6 months; 23% reported they had never experienced any violence.
Nurses who worked in the emergency department and mental health units reported the highest mean number of violent incidents per staff member, followed by those in the medical and restorative areas . Surgical and pediatric nurses reported an average of 3.73 and 4.00 incidents each, and midwives reported the lowest number, with a mean of 1.67 violent events. Overall, nurses reported an average of 2 to 46 incidents a year.
More Than Half Experienced Physical Assault
Virtually all of the nurses surveyed reported experiencing verbal abuse, 69% had been physically threatened, and 52% had been physically assaulted in the year before the survey. Violent events were perpetrated regardless of the nurses’ age, educational qualifications, years of experience, and sex.
However, level 3 senior nurses, nurse unit managers, and clinical nurse specialists reported more physical assaults than lower-level nurses. Forty percent of nurses had been involved in an incident with a weapon. The emergency department was the most violent place to work, with nurses reporting an episode involving a weapon once a week. Mental health unit nurses reported episodes with weapons every month, and nurses working in surgical or medical wards reported such incidence more than twice a year.
The nurses said they did not report the violent episodes because they considered such episodes to be part of the job and because they happen all the time.”
J Clin Nurs. 2010;19:479-488.