Emergency Room Violence

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Emergency Room Violence

Study paints gloomy picture for ER nurses

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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According to a new study conducted by the Institute for Emergency Nursing Research, emergency room workers still experience an alarmingly high incidence of violence in the workplace.

The study, published online in the January edition of the Journal of Emergency Nursing, was based on email narratives submitted by ER nurses from the Emergency Nurse Association (ENA) roster, solicited via an announcement on the association’s website. Although the number of responses was small — 46 in all — the results are disturbing: More than 70 percent of participants reported having experienced verbal or physical assaults by patients or visitors while providing care.

Just Part of the Job?
The cost of that violence is high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, assaults on healthcare workers are the most common source of nonfatal injury or illness requiring days off from work in the healthcare industry. Even if an assault doesn’t result in physical injury, the psychological trauma can drive dedicated, experienced nurses to leave the profession entirely.

Compounding the problem is what the ENA calls “a culture of acceptance among hospital administrators, prosecutors and judges.” Study participants complained that administrators often ignore assaults unless the incident resulted in serious injury or death.

Nurses who filed criminal charges following an assault fared little better. One nurse reported that the judge in their case shrugged off the incident as “the nature of the beast.”

Prevention Is Possible
The study’s authors say that hospitals must take action to better protect emergency care workers, including training workers to recognize cues of potential violence; instituting zero-tolerance polices for workplace assaults; and adopting better systems and procedures for reporting and responding to incidents.   

“There will always be the potential for violence against emergency nurses, but we must not accept it as the price of helping the sick and injured,” says ENA President Deena Brecher, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, CEN, CPEN. “With training and a change of culture, we can significantly decrease the occurrence of assaults.”

For an informative Working Nurse article on this topic, including practical ideas from a hospital with a good safety record and links to a toolkit from the Emergency Nurse Association, click here.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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