Violence is …not just part of the job!

“Police say a patient nearly tore off a nurse’s ear and attempted to gouge out her eye at Pembroke Hospital over the weekend.”– Patriot Ledger. March 7, 2016 (USA)


“Drug-affected teen allegedly bit hospital nurse in vicious assault”

– Gold Coast Bulletin, 29 Dec. 29, 2015. (Australia)


“Patient’s attack sends two nurses to hospital.”

– CBC News. Dec. 17, 2015 (Canada)


“Hospital patient arrested after assaulting nurses, staff members.”

– Live 5 News. Sept. 3, 2015. (USA)


“Nurses beaten up in ward.”

– Sowetan Live. August 5, 2015. (South Africa)

You might not hear about these incidents of violence that go on around the world, but they are happening. So what can we as nurses do to work towards eliminating this horrible situation?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace. Violence includes open as well as hidden aggression and ranges from verbal abuse to homicide.

The American Nurses Association is taking a firm stance on violence against nurses and, in July 2015, issued a policy statement Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence. In it, the ANA advocates the development of evidence-based strategies to prevent and take action to lessen the effects of incivility, bullying, and workplace violence to promote the health, safety, and wellness of registered nurses and other health care workers.



Violence against nurses commonly goes unreported.  Is it that nurses accept violent behavior as part of the patient’s problem “He couldn’t help it,” “She was drunk”?  We as nurses commonly make excuses for our patients behaviours. Another reason might be a real or imagined belief that the rest of the staff will think we are weak, that we can’t handle intense situations or maybe we even fear being dismissed if we speak up.

When a nurse is injured in an assault, the incident should be managed as for any other work-related injury. It should be reported and investigated, and the nurse must be provided with the necessary treatment, including trauma counseling if required. It is your right to be taken care of.


If assaulted, remove yourself to a safe area IMMEDIATELY. Get assistance from your coworkers. Call for security back-up or police assistance as necessary. Make sure to report the incident. Take notes of the incident as soon as possible when all of the details are fresh in your memory. Provide copies to management and authorities if necessary making sure to keep the original for yourself in a safe spot.

Ask your supervisor to arrange for medical attention or trauma counseling to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if needed. At the moment, you might think you will not need any counselling, but know that you can obtain this service at any time.  It might be hours or a few days before you realize that the incident had a profound affect on your life. Same with injuries, you might feel “okay” at the time, then the next day after you have rested and your adrenaline has stopped flowing you realize that your injury might be more debilitating than you had anticipated.

There are several reports of nurses suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome after an attack and being unable to return to work. There is no shame in needing assistance with getting your life back to normal after a traumatic event.

Return to work only once you feel safe in the environment and when any injuries have healed and you are cleared to work.


Any incident that causes harm or potential danger to one of your fellow coworkers could have varying effects. It can leave your co-worker shaken, confused, fearful and with a loss of self-confidence. Even the co-worker that you feel can “handle anything” might need support from a co-worker. Sometimes it is just knowing that your coworkers are there if you need them, that they are supportive and they are there to listen.

Nurses should advocate for implementation of a peer-based support system and a group to fight for changes in the policies and safety procedures. Nurses need to fight to prevent an incident from happening again, we cannot let these events continue to happen or continue to put our coworkers at risk.  Nurses should fight for preventative policy, not reactive policy changes.


Violence against nurses …It’s not part of the job!

We all know that change can be difficult in some organizations and that change commonly costs companies’ money. Nurses can identify the risks in their environment that welcome an attack on nurses and bring them to the attention of those who have the power to make change and to those who will listen.

Companies can hire speakers and trainers to give their staff the skills to de-escalate situations before they become violent, how to identify potential areas or situations that could prove to be dangerous. Not all incidents will be able to be prevented. With the education of the staff in safety awareness and identifying necessary changes in the work environment could lead to considerably lowering the risk of violence against nurses.

Knowledge is power. Empower yourself and your coworkers.

Lets talk over coffee.


Feel free to contact me to set up a free phone consultation and risk assessment for your organization. Email Jennifer Shepley @


2 thoughts on “Violence is …not just part of the job!

  1. Great article !
    Unfortunately I have been the victim a couple of times! Thanks for sharing and keeping us ALL aware of the need to stay safe!


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