Workplace Violence and Safety
- You see security running through your emergency department, hear screaming and staff members talking, and are wondering what has happened now. You later find out that one of your fellow staff members was attacked and beaten by a patient. Legal charges are filed against the patient for assault, but the charges are dropped and the patient is set free. A patient’s family member attacks another staff member. A registered nurse is sprayed with mace after caring for a small child. Later the assailant is found to have a pair of scissors in her possession, which she intended to use as well.
- Nurses care for their patients and envision making a difference in their patient's health status, decision-making abilities, and health outcomes. Health care agencies, typically thought of as “safe” places, now are facing a significant increase in multidirectional acts of aggression from patients and visitors.1 DelBel2 addressed “the seriousness of violence in the health care workplace, concluding that it's an epidemic in all societies, including the developing world.” Regardless of a health care agency's size or mission, when unexpectedly confronted with workplace violence, staff members typically are overwhelmed with shock, followed by multiple questions surrounding how the event could have occurred in the safety of the workplace.
- This past summer, a pregnant emergency nurse was severely beaten by a mentally ill patient while she was providing care for another patient. She was knocked unconscious and required hospitalization. Another nurse was exposed to pepper spray that was in a patient's purse and required treatment. These examples bring attention once again to the issue of workplace violence and the need for emergency departments to develop methods to prevent injuries to staff and patients. These particular incidents were reported on the Internet, but many incidents continue to go unreported.
- Workplace violence is a significant occupational hazard in health care. As the largest group of employees in health care, nurses are particularly vulnerable to workplace violence, with those who work in emergency departments being especially at risk. The purpose of this research was to study the phenomenon of workplace violence by interviewing emergency nurses who had experienced violence while on duty.