ED violence vs. nurses remains high

Every week, in the United States, between 8% and 13% of emergency department nurses are victims of physical violence, according to a new study released by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) in Des Plaines, IL.

More than half the nurses (a mean of 54.8%) surveyed by ENA reported experiencing physical or verbal abuse at work in the last seven days. The Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study also found that 15% of the nurses who reported experiencing physical violence said they sustained a physical injury as a result of the incident, and in almost half of the cases (44.9%), no action was taken against the perpetrator. ENA President Diane Gurney, RN, MS, CEN, says that result is particularly disturbing.

"We are extremely alarmed that there are so many cases in which hospitals do not respond to violence in the emergency department," Gurney says. "These incidents are not only frightening and dangerous for nurses, but also for patients in the emergency department. Hospital administration has a responsibility to keep patients and the health care providers who care for them safe. Every hospital should be required to adopt and implement policies to keep their emergency departments safer."

Three in four nurses (74.4%) who were victims of physical violence reported that the hospital gave them no response regarding that violence. Nurses working in emergency departments at hospitals with policies regarding violence reported experiencing fewer incidents of physical or verbal violence. Hospitals with zero-tolerance reporting policies had an 8.4% physical violence rate; hospitals with a non-zero-tolerance policy had a 12.3% physical violence rate; and hospitals with no policy had an 18.1% physical violence rate.

The study revealed that certain physical safeguards are correlated with lower rates of violence. The presence of a panic button or silent alarm is associated with lower physical violence rates. Having an enclosed nurses' station, security signs and well-lit areas are associated with significantly lower verbal abuse rates.

Patients and their relatives were the perpetrators of the abuse in nearly all incidents of physical violence (97.1 %) and verbal abuse (91%). The majority of incidents of physical violence occurred in patients' rooms (80.6%). Nearly a quarter (23.2%) occurred in corridors, hallways, stairwells or elevators and only 14.7% occurred at the nurses' station.