Rising Rates of Workplace Violence Against Nurses

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, July 21, 2022 Posted in Industry News

workplace violence

Every person deserves to feel safe at work — especially those who devote their lives to helping people in their time of need. Unfortunately, nurses and other healthcare professionals have become targets for people unleashing fear, anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, and other destructive emotions. Data shows workplace violence against nurses is on the rise.

Recent events highlight healthcare violence

Healthcare facilities are emotional places. People don’t always get the news they hope to hear from nurses and doctors. This might push some people into feelings of rage, anxiety, or anger that they can’t control, causing them to lash out. In some of the worst instances, these people may become violent.

Recently, overwhelming feelings of stress and despair have created a more volatile world — and healthcare workers often feel the brunt of it. Instances of workplace violence, whether verbal or physical, have been increasing since the pandemic, putting nurses at risk. A 2022 survey from National Nurses United illustrated that nearly half (48%) of nurses reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence, up from 30.6% in September 2021.

Workplace violence is now reaching a point of critical concern with more severe instances. Take, for example, the recent tragedy at Tulsa’s Saint Francis Hospital, where a gunman killed four people after allegedly experiencing back pain after surgery.

Fear surrounding these events puts a significant emotional burden on nurses and other healthcare workers, as well as threatening their physical well-being.

workplace compassion

Compassion can help de-escalate workplace incidents

It’s important for nurses to be aware of the growing threat of workplace violence. It’s not possible to control how other people act, but nurses can — and should — stay alert to a situation and take precautions to prevent a dangerous incident. It’s all about being cognizant and vigilant at work, while remaining empathetic.

One of the best things a nurse can do in the workplace is ensure patients feel heard and cared for and respond with empathy. Taking a compassionate approach can turn a violent incident into a de-escalated one.

People who feel angry, confused, or misunderstood are more likely to lash out at their healthcare provider, especially in response to difficult news. In these situations, nurses can:

  • Express understanding for their patient’s emotions.
  • Offer to help in any way possible.
  • Calmly clear up any confusion or misunderstanding.
  • Communicate openly and effectively in a calm, patient manner.
  • Pay attention to potential signs of agitation or violence and respond with caution.
  • Speak with other nurses nearby to keep an eye on potentially volatile visitors.
  • Request help early so that a situation does not escalate further.

Healthcare needs to be safe for everyone

It’s understandable that nurses and other healthcare workers are facing stress in response to rising workplace violence. Overwhelming schedules, staff shortages, and burnout can make it difficult to respond to patients effectively. It’s not a nurse’s job to serve as a police officer or social worker, but creating a safe, healing environment where patients feel understood can make all the difference.

Health Providers Choice puts the safety and well-being of our nursing professionals above all else. If you’re a victim of workplace violence or fear for your safety, contact us online or call us immediately at 888-299-9800. We want to help you feel safe on assignment.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.