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Nurses Say Enough Is Enough: No More Violence, Bullying

SILVER SPRING, MD– Nurses are sending a very clear message to hospitals: They will no longer tolerate physical violence, most often promulgated by patients and their families, or verbal abuse, i.e. bullying, from superiors or colleagues.

The nursing profession “will no longer tolerate violence of any kind from any source,” the American Nurses Association (ANA) asserted in a new position statement on violence in the healthcare workplace.

“Taking this clear and strong position is critical to ensure the safety of patients, nurses and other healthcare workers,” ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, said. “Enduring physical or verbal abuse must no longer be accepted as part of a nurse’s job.”

The position statement was developed by a range of nurses – clinicians, executives and educators – in response to a continuum of harmful workplace actions and inactions, ranging from incivility to bullying to physical violence.

Nearly one quarter of respondents to a recent ANA survey of 3,765 RNs said they had been physically assaulted while at work by a patient or a patient’s family member. Half reported they had been bullied by a peer, with 42% saying the harassment had come from a person at a higher level of authority.

The ANA report defines bullying as “repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend and cause distress,” such as hostile remarks, verbal attacks, threats, intimidation and withholding support. It further notes that some form of incivility occurs in nearly every nursing specialty, whether in practice or academic settings, and affects all educational and organizational levels of the nursing profession.

In calling on RNs and employers to work together to create a culture of respect and to implement evidence-based strategies, the ANA also underscores the financial advantages to doing so. The association cites a 2014 study which found that a U.S. hospital employing 5,000 nurses spent $94,156 annually because of workplace violence –$78,924 for treatment and $15,232 for indemnity of the 2.1% of nurses who reported injuries.

As part of its zero tolerance policy, the ANA calls on hospitals and other employers to:

  • establish a shared and sustained commitment to a safe and trustworthy environment that promotes respect and dignity;
  • encourage employees to report incidents of violence, and never blame employees for violence perpetrated by non-employees;
  • urge RNs to participate in educational programs, learn organizational policies and procedures, and use “situational awareness” to anticipate the potential for violence; and
  • develop a comprehensive violence prevention program aligned with federal health and safety guidelines, with input from staff nurses.