Nurses and workplace violence: nurses' experiences of verbal and physical abuse at work

Nurs Leadersh (Tor Ont). 2003;16(4):82-98. doi: 10.12927/cjnl.2003.16263.


This paper describes nurses' experiences of violence and abuse in the workplace and the ways in which those experiences influence their abilities to care for patients. The original purpose of the research from which these findings derive was to explore nurses' work with abused women. The qualitative study utilizing a Social Constructivism approach was conducted in two countries: Canada and the United Kingdom. Forty-nine nurses from four clinical areas were interviewed, both in focus groups and individually, about factors influencing their care of abused women. In the course of the original study, the degree of verbal abuse and physical violence that nurses routinely encounter in their work became apparent. It also became clear that abuse against nurses is an important issue that has a significant impact on nurses' abilities to offer effective care. Findings indicated that nurses experience significant threat, frequently in the context of their work, at the hands of patients and their relatives; that verbal abuse is an almost daily occurrence; and that support from other healthcare professionals or from administration in addressing the issue, while improving somewhat, is inadequate. This work has implications not only for nurses' health and safety but also, in the broader sense, for the profession's ability to attract and retain nurses within the healthcare system.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Philosophy, Nursing
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Safety Management / organization & administration
  • Security Measures
  • Sexual Harassment / prevention & control
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Visitors to Patients / psychology
  • Workplace / psychology*
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data