Nurses bear the brunt of abuse in emergency departments

By: November 23rd, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The latest results from a survey by the Emergency Nurses Association Institute for Emergency Nursing Research shows that over any seven-day period in 2010, 53% of nurses reported experiencing verbal abuse and 13% reported experiencing physical violence, according to HealthLeaders Media, November 14. Furthermore, these results are not much improved compared to a similar survey done in 2009.

In analyzing Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study, November 2011, HealthLeaders Media notes:

  • Of all the nurses surveyed who indicated experiencing physical assault, 48% said they were grabbed or pulled.
  • The most common forms of verbal abuse were yelling or swearing, with 89% of nurses reporting those forms of abuse.
  • Patients committed 98% of the physical violence and 92% of the verbal abuse.
  • The patient’s room was the most dangerous place for an emergency nurse, with 82% of physical assaults occurring there.
  • More than half —56% —of patients who physically assaulted nurses were drunk, 47% were on drugs, and 45% were psychiatric patients.

The report also noted that “66% of nurses did not file a formal report when they were physically assaulted, and 86% did not file a formal report when they were verbally abused.”

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the state legislators have introduced a bill that would protect healthcare workers from assault.

House Bill 1992, introduced by State Representative Nicholas Micozzie (R) and supported by Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, would require healthcare facilities hospitals to conduct security risk assessments for creating safer workplaces and  “help victims of violence report incidences,” according to, November 16.


Having worked in ER for a number of years, this report is kind of a “Duh”. But curbing this is a whole nother issue.

Since nursing is hands on (no robots to do this yet), how do you prevent a patient from grabbing or striking out? Our government has seen fit to pretty much outlaw restraints.

Verbal abuse? So do you put a gag on the patient?

ER’s deal with every aspect of society. Many folks that utilize the ER have life issues that reduce their social skills.

Wouldn’t we just be moving the issue from the nurses to the security folks?

Sorry for being so cynical. I know that this is an issue that does need to be constantly reviewed and whenever possible improved, but some jobs have certain risks. If you don’t like verbal abuse, then the ER probably is not a place to work.

By Heidi Joseph on November 29th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I too have worked in emergency medicine for a number of years and have dealt with verbal and physical abuse. I agree that there is a certain amount of “the nature of the beast” attitude that most of us have, HOWEVER, I don’t think that it makes it okay for patients to be physically abusive to health care workers.

If we don’t make this a punitive act, patients will continue to have no respect for health care providers. I can speak for the city that I work in, they do not prosecute patients who are physically abusive. However, when that same patient is physically abusive to the police officer, it is a whole different set of circumstances. What makes them more important than me as an RN?

Everyone deserves respect and it should be mutually reciprocating. By saying that the patient is always right we are setting the continued stage for a general lack of respect for us in a society that generally has no respect for anyone. They walk with cell phones to sales counters, doctors offices, triage desk and expect to be able to continue their conversation and the person on the other side should just smile and wait. I think this is a disservice to teaching our children how to respect authority, their peers, themselves and everyone in between. We are in a gimme society and they want it right away!!


Leave a Comment


« | Home | »

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail

  • test
  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar