Workplace Violence Rampant in Healthcare


Published – April 27, 2016

Workplace violence against healthcare workers is rampant, but solutions remain unclear, largely as a result of underrecognition and underreporting of the problem and poor-quality research, according to a review article publishedin the April 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The article stems from the tragic death of a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, in January 2015. The surgeon was shot and killed by the son of one of his patients, who had died. The homicide gained widespread attention, but follow-up reports failed to represent the full extent of workplace violence in healthcare, according to review author James Phillips, MD, from Harvard Medical School and the Department of Emergency Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

Far more common than homicide are the daily encounters with lower-level violence, such as verbal abuse, physical assault, intimidation, stalking, and sexual harassment, experienced by healthcare workers but often overlooked.

“Workplace violence with nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers is a much bigger problem than the general public knows,” Dr Phillips told Medscape Medical News, “Healthcare providers also seem to be unaware of the extent of the violence.”

The issue needs to be addressed from the start, in medical and nursing school, he says.

“The fact that nurses and doctors are graduating into the most violent industry in the US outside of law enforcement with hardly a mention of that issue, and almost certainly no training regarding those situations, is a gross oversight in my opinion, and one that can be reasonably be addressed with minimal cost,” he asserted.

The statistics are alarming. According to studies cited in the article:

  • almost 75% of all workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 happened in healthcare settings;
  • 80% of emergency medical workers will experience violence during their careers;
  • 78% of emergency department physicians nationwide report being the target of workplace violence in the past year;
  • 100% of emergency department nurses report verbal assault and 82.1% report physical assault during the last year;
  • 40% of psychiatrists report physical assault;
  • the rate of workplace violence among psychiatric aides is 69 times higher than the national rate of workplace violence;
  • 61% of home healthcare workers report violence annually; and
  • family physicians are also at high risk, although limited data exist in the outpatient setting.

Courtesy: Medscape


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