Workplace Violence

Healthcare is crazy.  Unrealistic HCAHPS, abysmal staffing, being chronically underpaid and overworked… these are just a few of the many joys we get to deal with, but for the focus of this article, let’s tackle workplace violence.

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There is a very real threat that at any time, someone could walk into the hospital (or anywhere) with a gun/weapon.

Typically the closest we come to this situation is an ER lock-down when a patient arrives with a GSW and the shooter is not yet in custody. We are, however, given training in the event that an active shooter gets inside the hospital.

The long and short of it is to first attempt to run and hide, and if it comes to it, stand and fight with any makeshift weapons we can get our hands on (which could prove difficult considering we aren’t allowed to carry guns or knives and such). Scary stuff!

But most of the violence nurses are exposed to come in the forms of assault & battery and verbal & emotional abuse, so let’s get into it.


Assault & Battery

Unfortunately, nurses are commonly exposed to physical violence in the form of assault and battery. This can come from both patients and visitors.

Many a time, I have seen and heard of patients swinging at nurses, often under the guise of confusion. Sometimes said confusion is legit, but sometimes it’s just a patient acting like a degenerate thug. It typically results in a Code Atlas being called and someone ending up in restraints.

A personal story of mine is when a nurse tech and I were trying to get a demented patient from a chair into the bed. He had contracted his arms in like a turtle in its shell, and just as we had each grabbed an arm he struck forth with the fury of a thousand suns… and yes, he aimed straight for the balls.


But what’s worse is when family and visitors are the ones a Code Atlas is being called on, and in this case, there’s really no excuse. For whatever reason, there seems to be a switch that goes off in people’s minds that makes them forget that a hospital is not exempt from the rule of law. We can, in fact, press criminal charges.

And yes, it’s true that we have cops and security personnel in the hospital, but they are usually late to the party and the damage is already done by the time they show up.

I worked with an older nurse on a psych unit years ago who was punched in the stomach by a detoxing patient for no reason other than that he was upset.  And security couldn’t have prevented it since it came out of nowhere.  She had to go to the ER to be checked out and was given medical leave for a while.

To me, the craziest thing about the whole episode was that she had to be drug tested to ensure that she wasn’t “on anything” at the time of the incident. Way to look out for number 1, risk management folks.


But it’s not just patients, family, and visitors causing trouble, believe it or not, there’s also staff on staff violence.

A little while ago on my floor, one nurse threw down her clipboard and raised her fists, saying “You wanna go?” to another nurse over a simple shift change report. That’s ridiculous!


Verbal & Emotional Abuse

Really it’s verbal and emotional abuse that nurses get the highest doses of.

Patients spout the nastiest things and throw tantrums like toddlers on the regular. Yelling about drugs, doctors, food, etc., basically anything that they encounter and it’s somehow all our fault. And the worst part is if we stand up for ourselves we get scolded by management for low HCAHP scores because we aren’t letting patients walk all over us.

People are at their worst in the hospital, I get it. But it’s no excuse to treat others like slaves just because you’re not at your best. Especially the ones trying to help you get better.

And sadly, we’re seemingly all so miserable that we attack each other. Doctors attack nurses, nurses attach each other, management attacks everyone, etc. It’s a mess!


We all need to start treating one another with some respect. That goes for patients, family/visitors, and staff. Come on, people!

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