by todaystrainingblog

According to recent research, approx. 30% of nurses & 24% of doctors have been the victims of workplace violence (WPV) but refused to report it. And why did they not report being verbally or physically assaulted? Because it is discouraged by the healthcare organizations themselves.

The same research report also stated that 60% of all non-fatal WPV incidents occur in a health care setting, making them a focal point. Facilities such as;

  • hospitals
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • nursing homes
  • residential care facilities
  • Long term care facilities
  • Hospice in some cases, although this is mainly by families
  • social-service agencies

It is also because these organizations, and many police departments, that it is considered a part of the job in the healthcare field so why worry and report it? And then there is the appearance that the hospital is not safe and it will scare away both visitors & patients. And of course that would cost the organization financial resources, which unfortunately drives even non-profits.

So how prevalent is WPV in healthcare settings? You rarely hear about it. In fact unless an 89-year-old man shoots and kills his 87-year-old wife because she is terminally ill or a gang member shoots up the ER you never do. But it happens on a daily basis. And what are these incidents? Here is a short list of what entails WPV in a healthcare setting, leaving the obvious ones.

  • Being spit on
  • Having urine or fecal matter thrown at them
  • Being stabbed with a needle, intentionally
  • Trays, urinals, bed pans, & etc. being thrown
  • Punched, kicked, gouged, & shoved
  • Being screamed at, sometimes threateningly, by either the patient or family members

Then the question becomes what kind of patients does these things? It is as diverse as the hospitals mission and illnesses present;

  • Mentally ill patients
  • Those who have suffered severe brain trauma due to an accident
  • Alcoholics, and drug addicts, going through their detox cycle
  • Alcoholics, and drug addicts, who are in the final throes of liver/kidney/heart failure,
  • Patients, and family members, who have just an overall bad attitude
  • Patients who refuse to comply because they ‘own and rule’ the hospital floor or unit

And again that is just a short list of issues that I have learned about since being very close to an ICU nurse for the past 15 years. If you talk to nurses at any healthcare facility, of any kind and in confidence, I’m sure you could get innumerable kinds of patients that become violent, as well as stories.

Still not convinced about the seriousness of WPV in healthcare? Here are a number of statistics that may change your mind:

  • Nearly 75 percent of all workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 occurred within a healthcare facility
  • Between 2000 and 2011, 154 shootings resulted in an injury on the grounds
  • 80 percent of emergency medical workers experience physical violence during their careers
  • 39 percent of nurses report verbal assaults each year
  • 13 percent of nurses report physical abuse each year
  • 85% of all health care workers have experienced a form of WPV
  • 48% of all workplace violence incidents are against healthcare and social service workers
  • 2% is perpetrated by someone with a connection to the facility; patient, family, or inmate. While this category is lowest, the majority of non-fatal violence is in this group.

Still think that WPV isn’t an issue within healthcare organizations? If you discuss this with any security supervisor, manager, director, vice president or whatever their title may be, they will admit it. But unless there has been a large massively known national incident, they won’t admit it publicly. That is because what I said above; they want the hospital to be perceived as safe and untroubled by any forms of violence. Which is simply not the case.

Hospital administration, in the c-suite, is in complete denial about security. Even if the structure of the corporation has a VP of Security or Risk Management. They are loathe to turn financial resources over to security/loss prevention to actually improve the security program without a fight. And the fight is as bad as it was for security managers 30, 40, or more years ago.

The 2nd part of this series will focus on other security issues next week.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

         I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear