2 Nurses Assaulted Every Hour in the Workplace, According To New Study

3 Min Read Published September 14, 2022
2 Nurses Assaulted Every Hour in the Workplace, According To New Study

A new analysis of  Press Ganey’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators® (NDNQI®) for the second quarter of 2022 has revealed a sobering statistic: on average, two nurses are assaulted every hour in the U.S. 

The findings were published on September 8, 2022 and were based on reported assaults from 483 healthcare facilities across the United States and included different types of units, from labor and delivery to surgical to mental health.  

What the Analysis Found

The analysis revealed that more than 5,200 healthcare workers were assaulted in the second quarter of 2022. Broken down further, that boiled down to around 57 assaults every single day. An assault was defined as “any encounter involving forcible, unwanted physical or sexual contact, regardless of who carries out the assault and regardless of whether there is intent to harm.” Accidental contacts were not counted as purposeful assaults. 

According to the findings:

  • Psychiatric units, ERs, and pediatric units carried the highest numbers of assaults.
  • In addition, assaults occurring in the psychiatric and rehabilitation units were the most likely to result in moderate to severe injuries to the healthcare worker.
  • Obstetrical and NICU units were the “safest” units, with the lowest amount of assaults occurring there.
  • Patients carried out the highest number of assaults, but assaults were also done by patient family members, visitors, intruders, and even nurses’ own co-workers.
  • Male patients were the most prevalent assaulters. However, in pediatric units and rehab units, female patients were the highest perpetrators. 

Jeff Doucette, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer at Press Ganey also pointed out that the analysis most likely didn’t capture the full picture of violence in the workplace because many assaults on nurses probably are never even reported. 

"Nurses take an oath to do no harm, and many put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient. However, violence should not be considered 'just part of the job,'" he told Beckers Hospital Review. "What's especially concerning about these numbers is that they are likely even higher, as assaults generally go underreported by healthcare professionals — and nurses in particular."

How Nurses Are Responding

Violence in the workplace for healthcare workers has been an ongoing issue for a long time and unfortunately, the pandemic has only seemed to increase assaults. Nursing organizations have been working to address the issue—the American Nurses’ Association (ANA), for instance, has launched an initiative to #EndNurseAbuse, which includes resources like a downloadable guide, webinars, educational videos, and a pledge nurses can sign to end workplace violence. 
You can also get involved at the political level by following ANA’s link to email your legislator to inform them of the seriousness of violence towards healthcare workers and help enact policies that will prevent it.  
Nurses themselves are also taking action to protect themselves by speaking out and taking self-defense courses. And some healthcare administrators are also getting involved. For instance, after a nurse was attacked in January of 2022, Warner Thomas, president and CEO of New Orleans-based Ochsner Health, called on legislators to make attacking nurses and other healthcare workers a felony. The hope is that in raising awareness about how attacking healthcare workers could result in a charge may decrease the rates of attempt from patients towards nurses. 
“Violence toward nurses has reached an alarming rate, nearing, if not already, an epidemic. We are calling on all healthcare leaders to declare zero tolerance for hostility toward healthcare workers, improve caregiver well-being and advance our shared commitment to zero harm,” Dr. Doucette told Business Wire. “Nurses deserve to be protected and feel safe while caring for people in their most vulnerable state.”

Press Ganey also recommended nursing organizations and facilities look at implementing the following steps to help reduce the risk and occurrence of workplace violence: 

  • Start and use reporting systems to get a more accurate picture of how often workplace violence is occuring—a pivotal step in using reporting systems is also making sure nurses actually know how to use them and feel comfortable using them.
  • Ensure nurses know that violence in the workplace is not expected or tolerated. Part of preventing violence is making sure that it’s never a “normal” part of the workforce.
  • Training and policies should be set into place to identify risks, prevent violence, and for nurses to know and understand standard response and post-incidence plans and steps.
  • Education programs and training should educate all staff on how to identify violence, how to de-escalate from a patient or co-worker exhibiting violent tendencies, along with emergency management and teamwork. 
Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie
Nurse.org Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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