Preventing violence against ED nurses

By: May 26th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

“Imagine if every time you came to work, there was a pretty good chance you would face a threat of physical violence or verbal assault? This is an everyday experience for emergency department nurses,” writes Rebecca Hendren in her May 24 HealthLeaders Media article “ENA Aims to Prevent Violence Against Nurses.”

Hendren interviews AnnMarie Papa, RN, president of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), which is conducting a multiyear study to examine workplace violence against ED nurses.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

The violence “most often occurs on nights and weekends,” says Papa. “The place that it occurs most is in the patient’s room. Typically they were doing triage at the time and when nurses triage, they are typically by themselves.”

Most of the violence is from patients who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or are needing psychiatric care. Patients’ families are also perpetrators of violence against nurses.

Papa says that violence has long plagued ED nurses but that it used to be barely talked about.

“In the past, nurses were victims of the violence but they didn’t make a big deal of it. People thought it was part of the job,” she says. “But it’s not part of the job.”

“You have to treat people with respect,” she says, adding that patients should not be able to hide behind the defense of anger and frustration at medical care leading them to get angry and scream and punch a nurse. “This is not acceptable,” she says.

Incidents of violence against nurses may not be more prevalent than in the past, but it appears to be, due to widespread mainstream media coverage. Alarmingly, some hospitals appear lackadaisical in their response to workplace violence when it occurs. It’s not enough to employ security guards; hospitals must have a solid system in place for when violence occurs.

Also in the article, Papa shares some early results from the ENA survey on the most prevalent types of violence encountered in EDs, how healthcare organization responded to reports of violence, and a link to ENA’s free Workplace Violence Toolkit.

For those not working in EDs, the results are an eye-opener; for those in EDs every day, the study probably confirms what they already know to be an unsafe and unacceptable condition.

Click here to read more from the HealthLeaders Media article.

Protect your staff and patients from violence in the emergency department. Violence in healthcare—like the recent incident at Johns Hopkins Hospital—is on the rise. Join HCPro for Violence in the ED: Proven Strategies to Keep Your Facility Safe, a 90-minute on-demand Webcast where you’ll learn a five-step approach to keeping your staff and patients safe. Our experienced speakers will also guide you through regulatory requirements related to workplace violence and provide action plans to train staff to handle unruly patients and prevent dangerous situations.


By Bruce Cunha on June 6th, 2011 at 10:56 am

This report is somewhat a sign of the times. I have worked ER for a number of years. When working in ER, you expect you are going to deal with patients with all sorts of issues. Violence is not accptable at any level, but you also come to realize that these are ill patients and have to learn to deal with verbal abuse. Was I ever slapped or hit by a demented elderyl patient? Sure. Would I press charges against them. No.

If you choose to work in ER and cannot deal with the fact you will have patients that because of disease or substance abuse, are verbally abusive, this may not be the job for you.

Interesting how our current society is moving towards a thinking that everyone should be able to do every job. Well, I would like to be the quarterback of a professional football team. It ain’t going to happen.

We need to recoginize the issues, address them as best as we can, but we alos have to realize we are in healthcare and will be taking care of ill and frightened patients.


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