ER Violence Against Nurses on the Rise


Posted to Nursing

In 2010, at least one in every 10 emergency room nurses surveyed, reported they had been attacked as late as one week prior to completing the survey, reports the Emergency Nurses Association. In a survey by UC San Francisco, almost 40 percent of California ER personnel said they’d been the victims of an on the job assault in the past year.

In a third survey, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found drug and alcohol related violence in the ER had increased 31.5 percent from 2006 to 2008.Violence against nurses and other hospital personnel is on the rise around the country, and unions, such as the California Nurses Association, as well as workers throughout the national healthcare system are calling for better protections and reporting standards. The U.S. government has started to listen.In 2010, two hospitals in Connecticut and Maine were fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to have adequate protections in place to prevent violence against emergency department workers. Some hospitals, in response to increasing violence, have redesigned their ER to move the security department next to the ER; others have placed a security officer’s station in the ER’s waiting area.But not all hospitals take such measures to protect their workers. Some even discourage reporting of violent incidents to supervisors or security personnel within the hospital. Still others do not permit their staff to file assault charges against patients. Failure to comply can result in termination.

Hospital officials believe that nurses who report assaults tarnish the “safe haven” image of the hospital. According to The Los Angeles Times, however, nine assaults occurring from 2007-2009, that were reported to the California Department of Public Health involved significant injury or death. The same period saw 370 hospital employees file worker’s compensation claims alleging injuries from assaults. Those numbers do not include assaults resulting from attacks by patients with dementia or other mental health issues as these assaults are not deemed “criminal.”

Some hospital systems have taken a more proactive stance to protect their nurses and other employees through self-defense training, including verbal de-escalation techniques. These techniques differentiate between patients needing a little more gentle prodding, such as an Alzheimer’s or autistic patient, and those needing a more assertive and defensive approach.  With hospital violence on the rise, nurses and other hospital employees will surely be safer in facilities that work to actively address this unfortunate issue.