New Study Shows Nurses Experiencing Increased Rates of Workplace Violence

More than eight in 10 nurses have experienced at least one type of workplace violence within the past year.

New Study Shows Nurses Experiencing Increased Rates of Workplace Violence

(Photo; F8 Suport Ukraine, Adobe Stock)

A nationwide survey conducted by National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses, found that the majority of nurses have experienced workplace violence and nearly half have seen a rise in rates in the past year.

NNU’s report, which was released last month, analyzed new data gathered from nearly 1,000 nurses working in 48 states and the District of Columbia. (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023), regarding nurses’ recent experiences of workplace violence. According to a statement by the union, it “shows that health care employers’ failure to implement effective prevention strategies is exacerbating the staffing crisis: six in ten RNs report having changed or left their job or profession or considered leaving their job due to workplace violence.”

NNU’s Findings on Workplace Violence Include: 

  • Eight in 10 nurses (81.6%) have experienced at least one type of violent incident at their place of employment within the past year.
  • Nearly half of nurses (45.5%) reported an increase in incidents on their unit in the previous year. In contrast, only 3.8% of nurses reported that workplace violence has decreased on their unit in the previous year.
  • Nurses experience multiple types of violence at work on a daily basis, ranging from physical abuse to verbal threats. The three most common types of violence reported were being verbally threatened (67.8%), physically threatened (38.7%), and being pinched or scratched (37.3%).

Only 29.5% of nurses reported that their employer has staff available at all times to respond to workplace violence and a mere 17% reported that their employer places additional staff to reduce the risk of incidents.

“When employers fail to safely staff units, it increases the risk of workplace violence due to increased wait times, unmet patient needs, and increased stress and moral distress of health care staff,” according to the statement. “In NNU’s surveys and focus groups, nurses regularly noted the role that short staffing plays in increasing the risk of workplace violence.”

NNU also said that scientific research has documented that unit-specific prevention plans created with employee input, safe staffing, and other engineering and administrative controls, work to reduce workplace violence. But NNU’s analysis of the survey results found that many health care employers continue to fail to implement these essential protections:

  • Only 62.8% of nurses reported that their employer provides training on workplace violence prevention. While training by itself is insufficient, it is an essential element of an effective prevention plan.
  • To effectively identify and correct hazards, employers must have a method to track and investigate violent incidents. However, only about one in three nurses (31.7%) reported that their employer provides a clear way to report incidents.
  • Nurses shared in NNU’s survey and focus groups that they often do not report workplace violence incidents due to unclear reporting mechanisms, lack of action from the employer, fear of employer retaliation, and perspectives that violence is part of the job.

To read the full report, including statistics and sources, go here

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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One response to “New Study Shows Nurses Experiencing Increased Rates of Workplace Violence”

  1. Until healthcare professionals start to consider threats as threats when they are threats rather than always thinking of them as patients who have disabilities and can’t ever be considered as or treated like real threats when they are threats (like law enforcement) they will never get positive results from their security efforts. In law enforcement a kid with gun who is capable of
    Pointing it and pulling the trigger as just as much a threat as an adult in the same situation! And, unfortunately that is a proper stance.

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