By Carol Davis
More than 5,000 nurses were assaulted on the job in the second quarter of 2022 alone, according to staggering new data from Press Ganey.
That equates to more than two nursing personnel assaulted every hour; 57 per day; and 1,739 per month, the data reveals.
“Nurses take an oath to do no harm, and many put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient. However, violence should not be considered just ‘part of the job,’” said Jeff Doucette, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, FAAN, Press Ganey’s chief nursing officer.
“What’s especially concerning about these numbers is that they are likely even higher, as assaults generally go underreported by healthcare professionals—and nurses in particular,” Doucette said.
Press Ganey’s analysis was based on findings from 483 facilities in its National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators® (NDNQI®). The analysis also defined assault as any encounter involving deliberate forcible, unwanted physical or sexual contact, regardless of whether there is intent to harm.
Indeed, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers are much more likely to be victims of aggravated assault at work than workers in any other industry, says Kaiser Health News.
Nurses fed up with the violence directed at them and other frontline healthcare workers marched in Washington, D.C., this spring with the message that, as Doucette stated, violence is not “part of the job.”
Press Ganey’s analysis also revealed:
- The highest number of assaults occurred in psychiatric units, emergency departments and, surprisingly, pediatric units such as pediatric burn, pediatric rehabilitation, and pediatric surgery.
- The lowest number of reported nurse assaults were in obstetrics and neonatal intensive care units.
- Most assailants are patients, but family members, co-workers, visitors, and intruders also perpetrate violence.
- Most assailants are male, except in pediatric and rehab units, where females are more likely to get violent.
- Psych and rehab units have the largest percentage of assaults resulting in moderate or severe injuries.
Mitigating the violence
Nurses are demanding, and getting, workplace protection from assailants.
RNs at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, California, not only got a wage increase with the ratification of a new four-year contract, but they also bargained for and got a Workplace Violence Prevention Committee created.
The committee, which will have two of its seats filled by RNs, will address workplace violence concerns and update current policies in accordance with California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Act.
And when an altercation—verbal or physical—begins at Inova hospitals, it is quickly met with a rapid-response team specially trained to de-escalate and safely contain the fracas.
The Safety Always for Everyone (SAFE) team, Inova’s major response effort to de-escalate issues and provide support for team members while also assuring safe care to patients, has resulted in fewer incidents and a staff much more confident in their workplace safety, says Kathy Helak, MSN, BSN, RN, FACHE, CPPS, Inova’s assistant vice president for patient safety.
Press Ganey also offers steps that healthcare organizations can take to mitigate violence against their nurses:
- Implement reporting systems for record-keeping and safety and well-being program evaluation.
- Ensure caregiver safety is a core value and set the expectation that violence on the job is neither expected nor accepted.
- Enact formal policies and procedures for risk identification, hazard prevention and control, standard response plans, and post-incident support.
- Implement training and education programs that teach warning signs, de-escalation techniques, progressive behavior control, emergency management, and communication and teamwork.
“Violence toward nurses has reached an alarming rate, nearing, if not already, an epidemic. We are calling on all healthcare leaders to declare zero tolerance for hostility toward healthcare workers, improve caregiver well-being, and advance our shared commitment to zero harm,” Doucette said.
“Nurses deserve to be protected and feel safe,” he said, “while caring for people in their most vulnerable state.”
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.