Identifying workplace violence in nursing and healthcare

Several factors increase a nurse’s risk of facing workplace violence, including directly dealing with patients who have a history of violence or who may be delirious or under the influence of drugs.

Many people are surprised to learn how often workplace violence in nursing occurs. Several factors increase a nurse’s risk of facing workplace violence, including directly dealing with patients who have a history of violence or who may be delirious or under the influence of drugs.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Labour, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents is, on average, more than four times higher in healthcare than in private industry. Even more alarming, the report found that healthcare accounts for nearly as many violent injuries as all other industries combined.

Within the healthcare industry, nurses experience the most workplace violence, given that they provide 24-hour care to patients. Workplace violence can include physical violence (assaults, spitting, or kicking) or psychological violence (including verbal abuse, acts of intimidation, and bullying) and affect a nurse’s ability to perform their job.

Violence within the workplace can take many forms, from egregious acts that appear on the news, such as the recent shooting at a medical facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to daily verbal transgressions. More often than not, workplace violence for nurses manifests as verbal abuse and threats that go unreported. This type of violence is repeatedly overlooked and taken in stride as “part of the job,” leading to the perpetuation of an unsafe and toxic work environment.

While the degree of workplace violence encounters can differ in nature, they all have serious implications for nurses and their organizations. Workplace violence has been linked to psychological distress, low employee engagement rates, high turnover, reduced quality of care, and financial liability.

Nurses should never have to put their health and safety in jeopardy. Through conscious interventions and strategic communication, healthcare leaders can work to protect their employees and allow them to focus on what matters most: serving their patients.

How To Prevent Workplace Violence in Nursing?
While there’s no one solution for preventing workplace violence, nurses and healthcare leaders can take several steps to directly address and reduce the more common forms:

Develop a Zero-Tolerance Policy
Organisations should develop zero-tolerance policies that clearly define a workplace code of conduct as well as consequences for those who break that code. Creating this type of formal document sends a message that lateral violence is not tolerated within the organization.

Create Open Lines of Communication
Organisations with open lines of communication empower their employees to recognize and report violent acts before they escalate. With open lines of communication between peers and managers, an organization can foster an environment where employees are comfortable sharing their experiences.

Raise Awareness
Many healthcare workers take violence in stride, assuming it comes with the territory. Raising awareness of workplace violence — what it looks like, who it impacts, and why it’s dangerous — helps increase incident reporting and keep employees safe.

Identify Patterns
Incidents of workplace violence should be recorded and continuously analysed, allowing healthcare administrators to identify patterns of abuse — which departments it occurs in the most, repeat offenders, etc. — and adjust their approaches as needed.

Streamline the Reporting Process
Many healthcare institutions have either no workplace violence reporting process in place or an extremely complex one. Both scenarios deter victims from speaking up and allow perpetrators to continue their abuse. Healthcare administrators are encouraged to develop a straightforward reporting process that empowers employees to alert leaders when violence occurs. The more information leaders have, the better equipped they are to track, respond, and combat abuse in the workplace.

Provide Education
Preventing abuse in the workplace begins with workplace violence education. Comprehensive training and training help nurses identify and report violent acts and develop programs to keep their teams safe. Education is a key component to arming nurses with the information they need to protect themselves and their co-workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines workplace violence as “violent acts (including physical assaults and threats of assaults) directed toward persons at work or on duty.” Experts not only agree on the extent of violence in the healthcare setting, but also concur on its best treatment: education and prevention. Nurses heighten their awareness and expertise in dealing with violence in their professional settings by learning to identify risk factors and warning signs, and by applying interventions that can shield their patients and themselves from harm.

At Locate Global we work with healthcare organisations to implement technology solutions that safeguard their workforce and streamline the reporting process. Our cloud-based platform and mobile application provide the means to raise emergency alerts, anonymously report incidents and hazards and communicate directly with monitoring teams through our two-way communication features.

To discuss our platform further, or to have a live demonstration with one of our experts, contact or call +44 (0)208 057 6402.