Ending Violence Against Emergency Room Nurses



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ER nurses are at a high risk of violence perpetrated by patients (Hassankhani et al., 2018). A policy is necessary to protect nurses from violence targeting leaders and nurses to: understand the risk and undertake effective assessment; initiate preventive mechanisms, include reporting channels, and support the affected nurses (Azami et al., 2018). Policy implementation should be within two months following effective assessment of the organizational need for change.

Cases of violence against ER nurses is on the rise. In November 2011, an Emergency Nurses Association survey revealed that almost one in ten ER nurses had experienced some physical violence in just seven days (Docksai, 2019). More incidents could have occurred that are never reported.


Data from OSHA reveal that out of 25,000 reported cases of assault annually, 75% were against nurses and social workers. The ANA (2019) states that cases of psychical and psychological violence against nurses occur when they are on duty, especially in the emergency room.

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The cases of violence have a huge cost for the hospital because of absenteeism and the cost of treatment for the affected nurses.

The main perpetrators of violence are patients with mental health illness coming into the ER for treatment. High prevalence of violence is the rationale for the policy changes.


The extent of workplace violence against nurses in the country requires immediate policy action. Recommendations for stakeholders include:

  • Congress and state legislatures should revise and enact new laws to protect nurses from workplace.
  • The law should clarify and increase penalties against perpetrators.
  • OSHA should request complete compliance by health care leaders.
  • OSHA and government agencies should require effective reporting.
  • Health care organizations should develop and implement work safety policies and programs.
  • Health system leaders should train nurses regarding the mechanisms to protect themselves against violence.
  • Nursing organizations and Boards should develop and implement standards for nurses’ safety.

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