Factors related to on-the-job abuse of nurses by patients

Health Rep. 2009 Jun;20(2):7-19.


Background: Numerous studies indicate that health care providers, particularly nurses, face a high risk of on-the-job abuse from patients. This article examines physical and emotional abuse from patients in nurses working in hospitals or long-term care facilities.

Data and methods: Data are from the 2005 National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses. Cross-tabulations were used to examine abuse in relation to personal characteristics of the nurse, job characteristics, and workplace climate factors. Multiple logistic regression modeling was used to examine abuse in relation to staffing and resource adequacy and relations among colleagues, controlling for personal and job characteristics.

Results: In 2005, 34% of Canadian nurses providing direct care in hospitals or long-term care facilities reported physical assault by a patient in the previous year; 47% reported emotional abuse. Abuse was related to being male, having less experience, usually working non-day shifts, and perceiving staffing or resources as inadequate, nurse-physician relations as poor, and co-worker and supervisor support as low. Associations between abuse and staffing or resource inadequacy and poor working relations persisted when controlling for personal and job characteristics.

Interpretation: Modifiable factors are important to nurses' on-the-job safety.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Physician-Nurse Relations
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Workplace / psychology*