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Half of ED Nurses Report Assaults at Work

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 28, 2009

More than half of emergency nurses say they've been "spit on," "hit," "pushed or shoved," "scratched," and "kicked" while on the job, according to a national online survey by the Emergency Nurses Association.

It gets worse. One in four of the 3,465 emergency nurses surveyed for Violence Against Nurses Working in U.S. Emergency Departments say they've been assaulted more than 20 times in the past three years, and one in five nurses have been verbally abused more than 200 times during the same period.

"People who work in helping professions shouldn't have to put their physical and emotional well-being on hold to do their jobs," says ENA President Bill Briggs, RN. "Emergency nurses provide crucial healthcare services. Their departments and their hospitals depend on them being able to deliver high-quality care. They can't do that if they're in danger of being verbally or physically abused."

More than half of the nurses say one or more factors played a role in their abuse, including: patients and visitors who were drunk or using illicit drugs; psychiatric patients in the ED; crowding; long wait times; and staff shortages. More than two in three (67%) of emergency nurses rate their perception of safety in the ED at five or lower on a 10-point scale, and one in three say they had considered leaving their hospital or emergency nursing altogether because of the violence.

Reports of violence are lowest in pediatric emergency departments and highest during night shifts and on weekends. Male emergency nurses are more likely than female nurses to be assaulted. Workplace violence is lower in facilities that have strong policies for reporting and responding to the violence.

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