Examining The Effects Of Workplace Violence For Nurses

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Violence is defined by physical force or verbal abuse, against yourself, some else, or to a community of others. Violence could lead to injury, psychological harm, or in some severe cases, death (World Health Organization [WHO], 2019, para. 1). Over the past 5 years, violence for nurses has increased by a significant amount. An example of violence in the workplace for nurses took place in Newfoundland and Labrador (Sweet, 2019, para. 6). A nurse was stabbed by a patient with a pen multiple times (Sweet, 2019, para. 6). Another place violence has occurred, was in Prince Edward Island (Sweet, 2019, para. 6). A nurse was threatened by a patient with a gun during a home- care appointment (Sweet, 2019, para. 6). What makes a workplace toxic? There are many factors that contribute to a toxic environment for staff to work in. If the environment of the workplace isn’t satisfying for a worker, mental and physical complications could begin (Van Fleet & Van Fleet, n.d., para. 1). One factor could be a personal factor which includes a physical and mental nature of a worker; the conditions of the workplace, what the job is and the risks it comes with, safeness associated with the job, or the environment at which the job takes place (Van Fleet & Van Fleet, n.d., p. 175). The effects nurses face through workplace violence can have a negative outlook on their mental health through the relationships of patients, coworkers, and positive solutions on how to solve this issue.

Patient to Nurse Violence

First, violence between patients and nurses. There are many negative psychological effects that affect nurses when involved with a violence patient. One of these effects includes a higher risk of nurses leaving their jobs due to these harsh acts caused by patients. In the article, “Nurses’ experience of workplace violence”, Henderson explains the violence that occurs in hospitals and other medical centers. She begins with the definition of violence, which includes “verbal harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault and physical assault as well as more subtle forms of abuse such as threatening, bullying and demanding behavior towards the nurse” (Henderson, 2011, p. 6). The author then goes on to say that most nurses have not been educated on how to deal with workplace violence, they overall do not feel comfortable or confident in handling a violent situation. The current policies and protocols of the workplace were not known to nurses, therefore, lacking this knowledge leads to them not reporting an incident, stating it’s ‘a waste of time’ (Henderson, 2011, p. 7). Nurses are aware of the potential violence they face every day and realize they require help from others in order to obtain the correct information for violence in the workplace (Henderson, 2011, p. 7). A study performed by Statistics Canada (as cited in Henderson, 2011), involved 18,676 different types of nurse across Canada to discuss their experiences with workplace violence (Findings, 2015, para. 14). 34% of the nurses who work in long- term care facilities have experienced physical abuse from patients and 47% have experiences emotional abuse (Findings, 2015, para. 14). Less experienced nurses and male nurses did file a report but, the more experienced nurses didn’t. According to the study done by Statistics Canada (as cited in Henderson, 2011), 47% of the nurses reported physical assault and 72% reported emotional abuse (Findings, 2015, para. 14). To conclude this point, most nurses are uncomfortable with reporting violence from patient as they feel it won’t help the situation. The other reason nurses don’t report violence is because they aren’t properly educated on the topic therefore don’t know how to handle an abusive setting.

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Worker to Worker Violence

Secondly, the relationship between coworkers can also cause unfavorable acts due to violence. One reason violence may occur in the workplace is from senior coworkers as they feel threatened by newcomers (Falletta, 2014, para. 2). The way violence is portrayed in a workplace can be through small acts that can ruin ethical principles of a workplace (Falletta, 2014, para. 8). These small acts might include an eye roll, talking behind a co-worker’s back, or an incomplete patient handoff (Falletta, 2014, para. 8). People tend to not like working with others they don’t trust or feel threatened by; because of this, productivity can decrease causing a person to fall behind on work (Van Fleet & Van Fleet, n.d., p. 99). A worker of a different culture, race, or gender might find it more difficult to stand up to an abusive co-worker compared to someone who is comfortable with confronting the person (Van Fleet & Van Fleet, n.d., p. 99). An experienced nurse is could be an example of someone who is comfortable with approaching an abusive person. If more experienced nurses were to approach a new resident in the workplace as a mentor rather than seeing them as “competition”, there is a likely chance worker to worker violence would decrease (Falletta, 2014, para. 9). Co-worker violence has been said to cause many mental health issues for nurses, such as stress, work dissatisfaction, higher chance of leaving their job, more sick days taken, and psychological problems (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 2). Managers and supervisors should also be keeping a close eye on their employees and should be able to identify workers that could be posing a threat to others as they are responsible for them (Van Fleet & Van Fleet, n.d., p.98). Overall, the main reasons co-worker violence exists stems from senior nurses who are more experienced and see students as “competition”, finding trustful people in their workplace, and taking culture, race, or gender into consideration when looking at factors of workplace violence.

Solutions for Workplace Violence

Last, are different solutions for any kind of violence that is being experienced in the workplace. According to a study conducted in a midwestern hospital system with about seven hospital and 15,000 employees by researchers Arnetz, Aranyos, Ager and Upfal (as cited in Hamblin et al., 2016). The study included an online module for spreading the word about violence in hospitals (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 7). All employees were to report any type of violent events through this electronic system or a supervisor (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 7). If someone were to report a violence act to a supervisor, it was the supervisor’s duty to report the problem within 24 hours (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 7). When someone reports the violent act through the computer system, the system recognizes the time, date, location, and name of both the victim and the perpetrator of the incident (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 7). The system is connected to the hospital’s human resource database where it is reviewed and taken care of later on (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 7). The conclusion for the study was that 199 incidents were reported and 189 people were identified as causing violent acts in the workplace for both patients and coworkers (Hamblin et al., 2016, para. 8). Overall, a system needs to be put in place in order to ensure the safety of patients and co-workers. By providing this system, nurses who are afraid to stand up to abusive co-workers and patients will be able to anonymously report any violence they experience and have it dealt with.


To conclude, workplace needs to be addressed with a reporting system that will lead to a safer environment for anyone experiencing workplace violence. A report system can improve the safety of new coming doctors, patients, and coworkers. As a final point,

Senior doctors also need to change their mindset when a new student arrives at the hospital. Meaning, approach them with a positive attitude and mentoring presence instead of seeing them as “competition”.


  1. Arnetz, J.E., Aranyos D., Ager, J., & Upfal, M.J. (2013). Worker-on-worker Violence among Hospital Employees. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 17, 328-335. doi: 10.1179/107735211799041797 Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1179/107735211799041797?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  2. Falletta, E. (2017). Lateral Violence in the Workplace. Johns Hopkins Nursing. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://magazine.nursing.jhu.edu/2017/09/lateral-violence-workplace
  3. Hamblin, E., Essenmacher, L., Ager, J., Upfal, M., Luborsky, M., Russell, J., & Arnetz, J. (2016). Worker to Worker Violence in Hospitals: Perpetrator Characteristics and Common Dyads. Workplace health & safety, 64(2), 51-56. doi: 10.1177/2165079915608856 Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4894299/
  4. Statistics Canada. (2015). Findings. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2009002/article/10835/findings-resultats-eng.htm
  5. Sweet, J. (2019). Nurses call for end to workplace violence as attacks mount. CBC News. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/health-care-worker-attacks-nurses-union-workplace-violence-1.5161861
  6. Van Fleet, E.W., & Van Fleet, D.D. (2014). Violence at Work: What Everyone Should Know. Retrieved from November 28, 2019, from https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.eztest.ocls.ca/eds/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=ce274042-3bd7-4e3a-a8ac-a5540f23a51b%40sdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=795003&db=nlebk


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