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ED Nurses Still Wear a Bullseye for Workplace Abuse

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 14, 2011

It gets worse. The study found that in 47% of the cases of physical violence, no action was taken against the perpetrator.  In other words, they got away with assault once. So, they'll probably do it again.

And, worst of all, in 72% of cases, nurses received no response from hospital leadership about the assault. This is astonishing and utterly inexcusable. How can senior leadership in any organization—from a hospital to a tire plant—not make a personal and immediate inquiry into the health and well-being of an employee who was assaulted on the job?  If this is the policy at your hospital, change it.

Ignoring injured employees will make senior leadership appear callous and indifferent, and that would be correct.  

 "The key for senior administrators to recognize is the high-level buy-in, and the high-level visibility," Papa says. It's not just the name on a piece of paper and a note.  It's that personal phone call and personally reaching out. "That call alone makes the nurse or the healthcare worker feel valued, knowing that leadership is watching this, and they are working to make changes."

It's also a dumb business practice to ignore the plight of injured employees in this era of high employee turnover and widespread labor shortages, especially for nurses. The survey found that 37% of emergency nurses have considered leaving their job because of the violence.

Here are two points we can take away from this survey: First, nurses must make a formal report  when they are the victims of assault, especially physical assaults. If they don't report it, it will happen again to someone else, perhaps a colleague. Secondly, leadership needs to reach out to any employees who are the victims of assault.

That is just basic decency.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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3 comments on "ED Nurses Still Wear a Bullseye for Workplace Abuse"


katsclark (11/16/2011 at 2:40 PM)
especially physician assaults, that is offensive!!! Because it is more tragic when a physician gets hit???? I have been assaulted more times than I can remember and I find it just as tragic, as when ANY other coworkers get assaulted.

Lauren Price (11/15/2011 at 5:23 PM)
If senior leadership doesn't respond to assaults on nurses, how is the plan to just "change it" going to be effective? Nurses don't report because those who do are usually labeled troublemakers. In this new era of the patient always being right and satisfaction-based reimbursement, filing a charge isn't viewed as the appropriate response. Until that attitude changes, we are stuck.

DVB (11/14/2011 at 2:06 PM)
And the third lesson is taking steps to prevent it from happening to nurses in the first place.