"An assault on a nurse is considered part of the job by the nurses themselves, the nurse leaders, and also by law enforcement," Brecher says. "From a nursing leadership perspective, understanding that that's the culture we are living in right now is key to making a difference.
A new ENA-sponsored study of assaults on emergency nurses [PDF] found a need to radically change this "culture of acceptance." The study, published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing, also showed a need to better train nurses about recognizing situations that might turn violent.
"When we look at violence in general, we don't like to talk about it as a society. Culturally, even outside the ED, we've turned to violence as an acceptable way of expressing your frustration," Brecher says.
In hospitals, a culture of safety needs to start from at the top, which means the entire organization should be supportive of nurses.
"We know from our studies that the one thing that seems to have the biggest impact on decreasing violence in the workplace is a zero-tolerance policy," Brecher says. If violence does occur, the entire organization—including the administration—should support nurses in whatever action they choose to take, such as calling 911 or pressing charges.