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Workplace Violence

Nurses today work in a world where violence is all too common.  You see its tragic effects in patients, but do you recognize your own potential exposure to violent situations?


Violence isn’t limited to the kinds of incidents that make headlines.  It includes a range of behavior from verbal abuse, bullying, threats and unwanted sexual advances to physical assault and at the extreme, homicide.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace (NIOSH, 1996).  GNA recognizes that workplace violence is a problem in the health care industry and works hard to protect nurses in all practice settings.


Official Position on Workplace Violence

The American Nurses Association (ANA) upholds that all nursing personnel have the right to work in healthy work environments, free of abusive behavior such as bullying, hostility, lateral abuse and violence, sexual harassment, intimidation, abuse of authority and position and reprisal for speaking out against abuses. 


Workplace Violence Statistics

  • In 2009, more than 50% of emergency center nurses experienced violence by patients on the job. There were 2,050 assaults and violent acts reported by RNs requiring an average of four days away from work. Of these acts, 1,830 were inflicted with injuries by patients or residents (Emergency Nurses Association).
  • According to Bureau of Labor statistics, an assault on a health care worker is the most common source of non-fatal injury or illness requiring days off from work in the health care and social assistance industry.
  • From 2003 to 2009, eight registered nurses were fatally injured at work (BLS, 2011).
  • A study of student nurses reported that 53% had been put down by a staff nurse (Longo, 2007); 52% reported having been threatened or experienced verbal violence at work (ANA, 2011). 


Steps to a Safer Workplace:

  • Insist on a safe workplace
  • Assess your workplace regularly to see where violence might occur
  • Seek management’s commitment to prevention
  • Work closely with other departments such as security
  • Demand workplace policies that address several scenarios
  • Choose control measures that fit your facility’s unique problems
  • Create a treatment environment that doesn’t aggravate assaultive or violent tendencies
  • Hold everyone accountable for their behavior – patients, visitors and staff
  • Pursue civil and criminal processes if necessary


For more information on lateral and workplace violence, click HERE.



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