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ENA Aims to Prevent Violence Against Nurses

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2011

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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46% of all violent acts in the workplace that necessitated days away from work were against RNs. And in the HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2011, just 40% of healthcare professionals surveyed said nurse leaders have "effectively addressed" workplace hostility.

The Emergency Nurses Association is engaged in a multi-year study to examine workplace violence against ED nurses and recently released data from the first section. The study questioned more than 3,000 ENA members from across the country and asked whether they had experienced workplace violence in the past seven days. Eleven percent responded they had experienced physical violence in the last week. Fifty-four percent had been subjected to verbal abuse within the last week. Unsurprisingly, physical violence rarely occurred without verbal abuse.

The most prevalent types of violence are:
  • Physical violence
    • Grabbed or pulled
    • Hit
    • Spit on
  • Verbal abuse
    • Yelled or shouted at
    • Sworn or cursed at
    • Called names

I spoke with the ENA's President AnnMarie Papa, RN, who is also a clinical nurse specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

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.

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