According to a press release from the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), a recently released study  revealed that more than half of the nurses surveyed by ENA – a mean of 54.8 percent – reported experiencing either physical or verbal abuse at work in the past seven days, which means that every week in the U.S., between approximately eight and 13 percent of emergency department nurses are victims of incidents of workplace violence.

In addition, The Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study found that 15 percent of emergency nurses who reported experiencing physical violence said they sustained a physical injury as a result of the incident and that, in nearly half of the cases (44.9 percent), no action was taken against the perpetrator of workplace violence. Furthermore, almost three out of four emergency nurses (74.4 percent) who were victims of workplace violence reported that the hospital gave them no response regarding that workplace violence.

More importantly, the study also found that emergency nurses working at hospitals with policies regarding workplace violence reported experiencing fewer incidents of physical or verbal violence. For example:

  • Hospitals with zero-tolerance reporting policies had an 8.4 percent workplace violence rate.
  • Hospitals with a non-zero-tolerance policy had a 12.3 percent workplace violence rate.
  • Hospitals with no policy had an 18.1 percent workplace violence rate.

Based on quarterly surveys of a total of 3,211 emergency nurses across the country from May 2009 to February 2010, The Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study also found that:

  • Patients and their relatives were the perpetrators of the workplace violence abuse in nearly all incidents of physical violence (97.1 percent) and verbal abuse (91 percent).
  • The majority of incidents of physical violence occurred in patients’ rooms (80.6 percent). 
  • The most frequently reported activities that emergency nurses were involved in when they experienced workplace violence were triaging a patient (38.2 percent), restraining or subduing a patient (33.8 percent), and performing an invasive procedure (30.9 percent).
  • Male nurses reported higher workplace violence rates than female nurses (15 percent versus 10.3 percent).
  • Workplace violence rates were higher in large urban areas (13.4 percent) than in rural areas (8.3 percent). 

As a result of the Surveillance Study findings, ENA – which is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary and serves as the voice of more than 37,000 members and their patients – has urged the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) to make its guidelines for preventing workplace violence into mandatory standards that to which all hospital and health care centers must adhere.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NIOSH) and OSHA define “workplace violence” as any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace, according to a press release from the California Nurses Association (CNA), and violence includes overt and covert behaviors ranging in aggressiveness from verbal harassment to murder.

Overall, the CNA press release reports that the healthcare industry constituted 45 percent of the two million incidents of workplace violence – the highest of all sectors – that occurred annually in the U.S. between 1993 and 1999, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog, cases of workplace violence are becoming all-too-common during the recent economic downturn, which has created more on-the-job stress for both employers and employees. For more ESR News Blog posts containing information about workplace violence, visit

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