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ENA Aims to Prevent Violence Against Nurses

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2011

Papa says that violence has long plagued ED nurses but that it used to be barely talked about.

"In the past, nurses were victims of the violence but they didn't make a big deal of it. People thought it was part of the job," she says. "But it's not part of the job"

"You have to treat people with respect," she says, adding that patients should not be able to hide behind the defense of anger and frustration at medical care leading them to get angry and scream and punch a nurse. "This is not acceptable," she says.

Incidents of violence against nurses may not be more prevalent than in the past, but it appears to be, due to widespread mainstream media coverage. Alarmingly, some hospitals appear lackadaisical in their response to workplace violence when it occurs. It's not enough to employ security guards; hospitals must have a solid system in place for when violence occurs.

Many nurses do not report workplace violence because they believe nothing will be done and there's no use, or because the process is so cumbersome they would rather not get started.

The ENA survey asked nurses how their organization responded to reports of violence:

  • Physical violence
    • No response from hospital to nurse (74.4%)
    • No action taken against the perpetrator (44.9%)
    • Perpetrator was given a warning (23.4%)
  • Verbal abuse
    • No response from hospital to nurse (81.3%)
    • No action taken against the perpetrator (50.5%)
    • Perpetrator was given a warning (29.6%)

Papa says organizations should establish policies so that a smooth process is in place for when incidents happen. This will make it easier for nurses to report workplace violence and ensure they feel supported when it happens.

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