Nursing and aggression in the workplace: a systematic review

Br J Nurs. 2014;23(12):653-4, 656-9. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2014.23.12.653.


Personal experiences of aggression or violence in the workplace lead to serious consequences for nurses, their patients, patient care and the organisation as a whole. While there is a plethora of research on this topic, no review is available that identifies types of aggression encountered, individuals perceived to be most at risk and coping strategies for victims. The aim of this systematic review was to examine occupational anxiety related to actual aggression in the workplace for nurses. Databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsycINFO) were searched, resulting in 1543 titles and abstracts. After removal of duplicates and non-relevant titles, 137 papers were read in full. Physical aggression was found to be most frequent in mental health, nursing homes and emergency departments while verbal aggression was more commonly experienced by general nurses. Nurses exposed to verbal or physical abuse often experienced a negative psychological impact post incident.

Keywords: Aggression; Anxiety; Coping; Nurses; Patient aggression; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Workplace Violence / prevention & control*
  • Workplace Violence / psychology*
  • Workplace Violence / statistics & numerical data