Violence Against ED Nurses Remains High, But Remedies Exist

John Commins, October 4, 2010

Another week, another hospital shooting.

This time it was Omaha, NE. You can read the local news accounts here.  

It sounds callous, but I really don't care what prompted the gunman's bout with irrationality. My sympathy and concern for him ended when he picked up a gun to solve his troubles. Two police officers suffered "minor" gunshot wounds in the shootout that fatally wounded the gunman. Fortunately, no patients, visitors, or healthcare providers suffered physical injuries.

I hate to sound like a One Note Johnny on the issue of hospital violence, because there are a lot of other topics I would prefer to write about. But this just won't go away. It's hard to ignore this very disturbing trend when we're getting weekly reports of gunplay and other violence in places of healing.

A timely Emergency Nurses Association nationwide survey has found that between 8% and 13% of ED nurses say they are victims of physical violence every week. More than half (54.8%) of the 3,211 nurses ENA surveyed at three-month intervals between May 2009 to February 2010 reported physical or verbal abuse at work in the week before taking the survey. 

The ENA's Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study also found that 15% of the nurses who reported physical violence—slapping, shoving, spitting, punching, kicking, etc.—said they were injured as a result.

To me, the most disturbing factoid in the survey was that no action was taken against the perpetrator in 45% of the cases. In other words, the attacker went unpunished.
Three in four nurses who were victims of physical violence reported that the hospital gave them no response regarding that violence.

"We are extremely alarmed that there are so many cases in which hospitals do not respond to violence in the emergency department," said Diane Gurney, RN, president of the 37,000-member ENA.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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