Violence towards health care workers in a Public Health Care Facility in Italy: a repeated cross-sectional study

BMC Health Serv Res. 2012 May 2;12:108. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-12-108.


Background: Violence at work is one of the major concerns in health care activities. The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of physical and non-physical violence in a general health care facility in Italy and to assess the relationship between violence and psychosocial factors, thereby providing a basis for appropriate intervention.

Methods: All health care workers from a public health care facility were invited to complete a questionnaire containing questions on workplace violence. Three questionnaire-based cross-sectional surveys were conducted. The response rate was 75% in 2005, 71% in 2007, and 94% in 2009. The 2009 questionnaire contained the VIF (Violent Incident Form) for reporting violent incidents, the DCS (demand/control/support) model for job strain, the Colquitt 20 item questionnaire for perceived organizational justice, and the GHQ-12 General Health Questionnaire for the assessment of mental health.

Results: One out of ten workers reported physical assault, and one out of three exposure to non-physical violence in the workplace in the previous year. Nurses and physicians were the most exposed occupational categories, whereas the psychiatric and emergency departments were the services at greatest risk of violence. Workers exposed to non-physical violence were subject to high job strain, low support, low perceived organizational justice, and high psychological distress.

Conclusion: Our study shows that health care workers in an Italian local health care facility are exposed to violence. Workplace violence was associated with high demand and psychological disorders, while job control, social support and organizational justice were protective factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Departments / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Health / standards
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Policy
  • Prevalence
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Workforce
  • Workload / psychology
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data