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A recent “pulse check” survey of Emergency Nurses Association members revealed more than half of the responding emergency nurses had been either physically or verbally assaulted or threatened with violence in the previous 30 days.

In the survey conducted Feb. 11 – March 11, ED nurses described being head-butted, kicked, slapped, punched, stabbed with a pencil or hit with thrown objects, among other types of aggression.

The verbal assaults and threats also have an impact:

  • “The patient threatened to cut my throat and says he would find out where I lived,” one nurse reported.
  • “They were upset and threatened to hurt me when I was done with my shift,” stated another about a patient’s relatives who were violating the hospital visitor policy.

With the National Institute of Health recognizing April as Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness Month, ENA continues to speak strongly about the crisis of violence toward emergency nurses and remind the public that it is not “just part of the job.” The association has long supported legislation and other measures that aim to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace violence incidents in healthcare.

“The violence and incivility against emergency nurses and their emergency care team partners – who are in the ED around-the-clock, every day, ready to care for anyone who enters – is unacceptable,” says ENA President Chris Dellinger MBA, BSN, RN, FAEN.

Of the nearly 500 ENA members who responded, approximately one-in-10 says they are considering leaving nursing because of ongoing workplace violence.

The survey also asked members for their perspectives on how their EDs prevent or respond to such incidents and what they see as positives in their workplace. Members cited de-escalation training, response teams, publicly stated policies and use of technology  such as flagging in electronic medical records  as things working well in their particular facilities.

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Generally, members cited positives in how their ED addresses workplace violence, but also lamented that it is still viewed as “part of the job” and expect little to change despite its ongoing pervasiveness, calling for better enforcement of policies and better follow-up by police and prosecutors.

Responses called attention to the various systemic issues that contribute to the overall problem beyond an increased lack of common consideration for others. These include staffing issues and the increase in patients with behavioral health needs who are boarded in the ED for sometimes weeks while waiting for appropriate placement.

“During Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness Month especially, we encourage people to listen to emergency healthcare professionals, hear their challenges and support the changes needed,” Dellinger says. “Workplace violence is a problem with complex roots that requires resources and responses from many channels. The health, safety and well-being of emergency nurses and their patients are at stake.”

Renee Hewitt
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