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September 15, 2022

The 'alarming' rate of violence against nurses in Q2 2022

Daily Briefing

    New data from Press Ganey found that over 5,000 nurses were assaulted on the job during the second quarter of 2022, leading nurses to call for policies that enforce "zero tolerance for hostility toward healthcare workers," Carol Davis writes for HealthLeaders.

    Infographic: Strategies to stop workplace violence before it occurs

    Over 5,000 nurses assaulted on the job in Q2

    For the analysis, Press Ganey gathered data from 483 facilities in its National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI). Assault was defined "as any encounter involving deliberate forcible, unwanted physical or sexual contact, regardless of whether there is intent to harm," Davis writes.

    According to the analysis, psychiatric units, EDs, and pediatric units, including pediatric burn, pediatric rehabilitation, and pediatric surgery units, reported the highest number of nurse assaults.

    Meanwhile, obstetrics and neonatal ICUs reported the lowest number of nurse assaults.

    Notably, psychiatric units and rehabilitation units have the highest share of assaults that lead to moderate or severe injuries.

    Typically, patients are the aggressors in the assaults—but there are also reports of family, co-workers, visitors, and intruders attacking nurses.

    While most assailants are men, the report found that women are more likely to become violent in pediatric and rehab units.

    During the second quarter of 2022 alone, the analysis found that 5,217 nurses were assaulted on the job—which equates to assaults 2 every hour, 57 every day, or 1,739 every month.

    "What's especially concerning about these numbers is that they are likely even higher, as assaults generally go underreported by healthcare professionals—and nurses in particular," said Press Ganey CNO Jeff Doucette.

    "Nurses take an oath to do no harm, and many put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient. However, violence should not be considered just 'part of the job,'" Doucette added. 

    How can health systems help protect nurses?

    As reports of nurse assaults continue, "[n]urses are demanding, and getting, workplace protection from assailants," Davis writes.

    For instance, RNs at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, California, were able to negotiate the creation of a Workplace Violence Prevention Committee, which will work to address concerns about violence in the workplace and ensure that policies comply with California's Workplace Violence Prevention Act.

    At Inova hospitals, any kind of altercation, including verbal or physical, is promptly handled by a rapid-response team trained to de-escalate and safely contain the situation.

    According to Kathy Helak, Inova's AVP for patient safety, the health system has experienced fewer incidents since deploying its Safety Always for Everyone (SAFE) team. In addition, their workers report having more confidence in their workplace safety.

    Press Ganey outlined several steps health care organizations can take to mitigate violence against their nurses, including:

    • Implementing reporting systems for records, safety, and well-being program evaluation
    • Prioritizing caregiver safety and having a zero-tolerance violence policy
    • Creating policies and procedures for risk identification, hazard prevention and control, standard response plans, and post-incident support
    • Enacting training and education programs that help workers understand warning signs, de-escalation techniques, progressive behavior control, emergency management, communication, and collaboration

    "Violence toward nurses has reached an alarming rate, nearing, if not already, an epidemic. We are calling on all healthcare leaders to declare zero tolerance for hostility toward healthcare workers, improve caregiver well-being, and advance our shared commitment to zero harm," Doucette said.

    "Nurses deserve to be protected and feel safe," he added, "while caring for people in their most vulnerable state." (Davis, HealthLeaders, 9/12)

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