OSHA and Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nursing is one of the most rewarding professions. As nurses we experience moments of great joy and pride. We focus our work to advocate for the patients we take care of and we use empathy, culturally competent care, and therapeutic communication to reduce the patient’s fears, to build a trusting connection with our patients in their most vulnerable times.

However, there are other sides of nursing that not many speak about such as workplace violence, as it is believed it to be “just part of the job.”

Workplace violence in healthcare is a serious problem that we face every day. Workplace violence can cause significant psychological trauma and stress associated with physical injuries. As a nurse and healthcare worker I never want to go to work feeling scared for my life, so it is the responsibility of the organizations where we work to keep us safe in the workplace and to create prevention programs that can facilitate employee and patients’ safety.

According to The Joint Commission, workplace violence is defined as a threat in the workplace which can be verbal, nonverbal, threatening, harassing or physical aggression that involves any healthcare staff patients and even visitors. The Joint Commission’s new and revised workplace violence prevention standards went into effect on January 1, 2022. The standards apply to all hospitals and critical access hospitals showing a very important step towards enhancing awareness and prevention.

And just like we have those rewarding stories, we also hear horrifying ones as well, where nurses are stabbed, punched, kicked, verbally assaulted and more. Violence in the healthcare field is not a new problem; it has been recognized for years but the incidence of violence has seen an increase especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Abusive conduct can influence a healthcare worker’s decision whether to leave the field. It can cause burnout and mental illness. Most importantly it can also undermine the quality of care nurses strive to provide every day.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual rate of workplace violence–related nonfatal injuries and/or illnesses is 10.4 per 10,000 full-time workers. While some believe that violence is “part of their job,” others believe that even reporting will not lead to any improvements or changes.

Some health care workers find reporting violence to be confusing, time consuming and difficult while you are already working under high stress.           

Violence prevention in healthcare should be something that health care organizations should have in their culture by including policies for workplace violence and providing education/training sessions and safety measures in place periodically. It is also important to empower the healthcare workers to report all the acts of violence, make the reporting easier, and implement training and education programs that will teach all the warning signs, de-escalation methods, and progressive behavior control.

According to the study conducted by Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, on an organizational level, rates of violence should be included as part of the hospital’s quality improvement dashboard. Regularly monitoring data can help the stakeholders identify and re-evaluate the effects of any violence prevention efforts implemented. Most importantly, disclosing the data with staff during staff meetings encourages staff to be involved in workplace prevention committees.

The new standards published by The Joint Commission have provided a framework for the development of hospital workplace violence prevention systems that include leadership structure, policies, additional provided training which provide great deal of measures by giving the health care workers a voice.

Implementing all these measures in place means giving them the right tools to report and prevent violence when that happens. Most importantly as nurses who work at bedside, we need to work closely with the Connecticut Nurses Association and our state legislators to demand safer workplace laws that protect both healthcare workers and patients.

Rezarta Xhindole BSN, RN is pursuing Master’s of Science in Nursing Education at the University of Connecticut and works full time as bedside nurse at UConn Health.