The Threat of Violence Is Common in Nursing

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Recently, a very important issue in nursing has gained more attention: violence in nursing. Events across the nation have brought to light the threat of violence that nurses may face on a daily basis. While recent headlines have garnered much needed attention to this issue, workplace violence has been an ongoing unfortunate reality for healthcare workers.

Why Workplace Violence Is a Nursing Reality

Nurses are at the forefront of care, which unfortunately makes them a target for patient violence. There are many reasons as to why patients might act out violently against nurses. Anger, anxiety, fear, and even confusion can drive people to act in a manner that can be unsafe for nurses and other healthcare providers.

Incidents of violence can range from demeaning language, yelling, spitting, biting, kicking, or punching to severe physical assault and even murder. Patient family members may also act violently toward nurses. Worry, fear, and a misunderstanding of care can drive a loved one to behave violently.  In addition, nurses may be providing care and find themselves in the middle of domestic disputes among patients or family members.

Lateral Workplace Violence Involving Coworkers

Unfortunately, lateral violence within the workplace is also a reality in nursing. Nurses work in a high-stress environment and may experience anxiety, frustration, or resentment in relation to their careers. This stressful environment and conflicting emotions can lead nurses and other staff members to act aggressively toward their peers. Lateral violence can occur in the form of bullying, nonverbal aggression, verbal abuse, and even physical abuse.

The Reporting Problem

While the threat of violence is a well-known issue within healthcare, workplace violence is often underreported.  Nurses may be uncertain as to what constitutes acts of violence, they may feel that their attackers are not to be held responsible due to their mental state, or they may feel that it is an expected risk of nursing. We need to encourage staff to report all incidents, regardless of source.

Careers at Risk

Workplace violence can lead nurses to take time off from work due to both physical and mental health reasons. Many nurses who have faced workplace violence may feel afraid to return to the career that they feel so passionately about.

Nurses, healthcare workers, and the general public need to be aware of and understand the reality of workplace violence in nursing. The more awareness there is of workplace violence, the more work can be done for positive change. Every person deserves to work in an environment where they feel respected and, most importantly, safe.

About the Author

Nicole Kraut is a nurse working in Chicago, Illinois, who writes for us regularly about her experiences as an early-to-mid career nurse. She has been a RN for over five years.

Nicole graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago and recently obtained a Master of Science in Nursing with an Emphasis in Nursing Education from Grand Canyon University. She “was inspired to become a nurse because I wanted to work in a career field in which I could make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. I feel nursing is my vocation and am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience in order to positively influence others.”

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