Verbal and Physical Violence in an Urban ED Setting

Written by Doug Wallace

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Violence directed at healthcare workers (HCWs) is common in the ED setting. Studies have demonstrated workplace violence is underreported and can have long term effects on HCWs.

Why does this matter?
Most violence in the workplace is perpetrated by patients against HCWs. One targeted ED study found that 100% of surveyed nurses documented they had experienced verbal abuse and 82% documented they had experienced physical abuse at work, while other studies have demonstrated significant underreporting. 

Verbal and physical violence against HCWs is all too common in the ED setting
The reviewed study was performed in an urban, Level 1, academic county ED. A general “dropbox” was utilized to collect voluntary reports of workplace violence against a variety of HCWs over a 5 month period with an anonymous option. 

Primary outcomes were the number of reported events over the study period and the percentage of events ranging from minor verbal to severe physical abuse. 130 events were reported, with almost daily events occurring. 67% of events involved verbal abuse, 22% physical abuse, 6% racist content, 14% sexist content, and 2% homophobic content. 

The authors go on to discuss how common healthcare workplace violence is, existing mitigation strategies, and why these events may be occurring. They also call for measures to address violence at local, state, and national levels. 

My takeaways: I concur. I and many of my colleagues have experienced ED workplace violence. The fact that it occurs does not mean that it should be normalized. Healthcare institutions and regulatory bodies should make dedicated efforts to mitigate these events as well as advocate for staff members.

Source
Exploring verbal and physical workplace violence in a large, urban emergency department. Am J Emerg Med. 2023 Jan 27;67:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2023.01.036. Epub ahead of print.

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