Violence Against ED Nurses Remains High, But Remedies Exist

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , October 4, 2010

"These incidents are not only frightening and dangerous for nurses, but also for patients in the emergency department. Hospital administration has a responsibility to keep patients and the healthcare providers who care for them safe. Every hospital should be required to adopt and implement policies to keep their emergency departments safer."

Gurney is exactly right. Hospital leadership can no long cling to the excuse that hospital violence is a random event that is impossible to prepare for, nor can leadership provide any excuse for failing to respond to acts of violence against staff.

Measures can be taken.

For example, the ENA survey found that ED nurses at hospitals with policies regarding violence reported experiencing fewer incidents of physical or verbal violence. Hospitals with zero-tolerance reporting policies had an 8% physical violence rate; hospitals with a non-zero-tolerance policy had a 12% physical violence rate; and hospitals with no policy had an 18% physical violence rate. Raise your hand if you spot the trend.

"These data underscore what nurses know first-hand," Gurney said. "Hospitals that have policies in place to respond to violence and to prevent it are safer for the healthcare professionals that work in them and the patients who seek treatment in them."

The survey revealed that simply strategies such as a panic button or silent alarm lower physical violence, and enclosed nurses’ station, security signs, and well-lit areas lower verbal abuse. 

The survey also found that:


  • Patients and their relatives perpetrated nearly all physical violence (97%) and verbal abuse (91%).   
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