Violence against nurses working in US emergency departments

J Healthc Prot Manage. 2010;26(1):81-99.


The objective of this study was to investigate emergency nurses experiences and perceptions of violence from patients and visitors in US emergency departments (EDs).

Background: The ED is a particularly vulnerable setting for workplace violence, and because of a lack of standardized measurement and reporting mechanisms for violence in healthcare settings, data are scarce.

Methods: Registered nurses members (n=3,465) of the Emergency Nurses Association participated in this cross-sectional study by completing a 69-item survey.

Results: Approximately 25% of respondents reported experiencing physical violence more than 20 times in the past 3 years, and almost 20% reported experiencing verbal abuse more than 200 times during the same period. Respondents who experienced frequent physical violence and/or frequent verbal abuse indicated fear of retaliation and lack of support from hospital administration and ED management as barriers to reporting workplace violence.

Conclusion: Violence against ED nurses in highly prevalent. Precipitating factors to violent incidents identified by respondents is consistent with the research literature; however, there is considerable potential to mitigate these factors. Commitment from hospital administrators, ED managers, and hospitals security is necessary to facilitate improvement and ensure a safer workplace for ED nurses.