Workplace violence is receiving more attention from hospital and health system leaders. Now may be the time to push for worker safety initiatives that previously could not gain traction.

Healthcare workplace violence is increasingly seen as a legitimate issue needing attention, not just a part of life that nurses and other employees must tolerate, says Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, manager in healthcare risk management with Aon in Fort Washington, PA.

“Workplace violence is getting a light shown on it at this time. I’ve not seen in my career more interest from governments and facilities alike to put into place measures to decrease workplace violence in healthcare settings,” she says. “I would say, however, that it is still hugely underreported. There are data showing that workplace violence is not only a common occurrence for healthcare workers, including nurses, but it also has been on the rise lately.”

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a 70% increase in reported violence against healthcare workers from 2012 to 2018, Flynn notes. It is an area of concern for nurses, but the good news is that the problem is no longer hidden, no longer a dirty secret that hospital administrators will not acknowledge, she says.

More Resources Available

Although there is a long way to go in improving the safety of workers, Flynn says the increased attention is bringing more resources to bear.

“We have an increase in overall knowledge, identifying for nurses what we mean by workplace violence and a safe workplace, and facilities establishing a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence. We’re seeing much more recognition that it’s not OK to tell a nurse ‘This is part of the job and to get over it, get back to work,’” Flynn says. “There is still work to do there so that nurses don’t see it as part of the job, but we’re seeing progress.”

Risk Managers Push for Change

Reporting workplace violence is key to improvement, Flynn notes. The most progress is made at facilities where nurses have clear processes for reporting incidents without retribution. Hospitals must create a culture in which violence of any kind, from anyone, is not accepted and can be reported without fear of reprisal, she says.

Risk managers who have sought to address workplace violence in the past but met resistance should consider another attempt, Flynn says. The attitude in the healthcare industry overall is improving, and leaders may respond differently now.

“I believe the tide is turning on management’s commitment to having a safe, violence-free workplace,” Flynn explains. “When you have top administrators, risk managers, other leaders declaring that violence from patients, visitors, staff, anyone is not acceptable, you create real change. Management is making more resources available and implementing the steps necessary for a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence.”


  • Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, Manager, Healthcare Risk Management, Aon, Fort Washington, PA. Email: