Violence against nurses hits all-time high: 2 new reports

Erica Carbajal – Becker’s Clinical Report

A growing proportion of nurses say incidents of violence and aggression they face on the job have become routine. As a result, many are considering an exit from the profession altogether.

In the first week of April — which the National Institutes of Health recognizes as Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness Month — at least two new reports have been published that underscore the growing toll violence has on the nursing workforce.

Last year, reported assaults against nurses were up 5% compared to 2022, according to an April 2 Press Ganey report on safety culture in healthcare. From 2022 to 2023, the rate of reported assaults against nurses jumped from 2.59 per 100 personnel to 2.71, an all-time high. The report also found that nearly a third of registered nurses report experiencing violence “occasionally” or “frequently” from patients or their family members while at work.

“By far, most events occurred in psychiatric units, followed by the emergency department, adult, pediatric and, lastly, perioperative units,” the report said.

Separately, the Emergency Nurses Association recently conducted a survey of nearly 500 members in which 56% of respondents said they had been physically or verbally assaulted or faced threats of violence in the 30 days prior. Ten percent of respondents said they’re considering exiting the profession due to workplace violence.

The new data also suggest the healthcare industry’s growing focus on bolstering workplace safety and security is making a difference in nurse’s eyes. In ENA’s survey, respondents pointed to de-escalation training, the establishment of response teams, clearly stated public policies, and the flagging of concerns in EHRs as measures that were working well at their organizations.

In recent months, calls from healthcare workers for federal action to be taken on workplace violence have intensified. The American Nurses Association, American College of Emergency Physicians and Emergency Nurses Association are urging lawmakers to pass two bills aimed at strengthening safety protections for workers in the industry.