Prevalence and perpetrators of workplace violence by nursing unit and the relationship between violence and the perceived work environment

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2015 Jan;47(1):87-95. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12112. Epub 2014 Oct 28.


Aims: To identify the prevalence and perpetrators of workplace violence against nurses and to examine the relationship of work demands and trust and justice in the workplace with the occurrence of violence.

Design: This study employed cross-sectional data from a 2013 nurse survey conducted at a university hospital in Seoul, South Korea. The study sample included 970 female nurses from 47 nursing units, including general, oncology, intensive care units (ICUs), operating rooms, and outpatient departments.

Methods: The second version of the medium-sized Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ II) was used to measure work demands (i.e., quantitative demands, work pace, and emotional demands), trust and justice, and violence. Relationships among those variables were examined by conducting multiple logistic regression analyses with multilevel modeling.

Findings: The 12-month prevalence of verbal abuse (63.8%) was highest, followed by threats of violence (41.6%), physical violence (22.3%), and sexual harassment (19.7%), but bullying had the lowest prevalence (9.7%). Physical violence, threats of violence, and verbal abuse occurred most frequently in ICUs, whereas sexual harassment and bullying were highest in operating rooms. The main perpetrators were patients, followed by physicians and patients' families. Nurses perceiving greater work demands and less trust and justice were more likely to have been exposed to violence.

Conclusions: The prevalence and perpetrators of violence varied considerably among nursing units. Greater work demands and less trust and justice were associated with nurses' experiences of violence.

Clinical relevance: Adequate work demands and a trusted and just work environment may reduce violence against nurses. In return, reduction of violence will contribute to creating a better nursing work environment.

Keywords: Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire II; Korea; Nurse; justice; perpetrator; trust; violence; work demands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Bullying
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospital Units*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Nurse Relations*
  • Prevalence
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seoul
  • Social Justice / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust / psychology
  • Workload / psychology
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Workplace Violence / statistics & numerical data*