NNU Survey Finds Over 80% of Nurses Experience Workplace Violence

13 Feb, 2024 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – According to a recent report from National Nurses United (NNU), the number of nurses experiencing violence in the workplace has increased dramatically within the last year, and many employers are failing to take action to prevent harm of their staff. 

According to the NNU report, 81.6 percent of nurses experienced some type of workplace violence during 2023. Around half of the nurses, at 45.5 percent, reported an increase of violence on their unit within the last year. At least 67.8 percent of nurses reported being verbally threatened, 38.7 percent have been physically threatened. Thirty-seven percent reported having been pinched or scratched, and 36.2 percent reported having been slapped, punched or kicked. Other methods of violence reported included having objects thrown at them (34.6 percent), verbally harassed based on sex or appearance (33.3 percent), exposure to bodily fluids (29.9 percent), and being touched inappropriately (19.8 percent). 

In a 2017 study of 42 inpatient hospitals, researchers found that when supervisors were given their incident and injury data and then worked with their staff to develop violence prevention protocols, the level of violent incidents dropped to less than half within 6 months of implementation.  At 24 months, researchers found the level of incidents dropped to a third of incidents. 

While studies show the success of violence prevention protocols, around 10 percent of the nurses polled stated their employer did not implement prevention measures, and around 13.7 percent were not sure if their employers implemented prevention measures. Around 62.8 percent of the nurses polled stated their employers provide training on workplace violence, and 31.7 percent reported that their employer provides a clear to way to report incidents. 

Only 29.5 percent of nurses reported that their employers had staff available at all times to respond to violent incidents. Seventeen percent of nurses stated their employers place additional staff to reduce the risk of violence, and 24.8 percent reported that their employers used security cameras, and 7.1 percent reported their employers used metal detectors as a security precaution. 

Only 26.8 percent stated that their employer utilized a flagging system to indicate patients with a potential increased risk of violence. Around 12.3 percent of nurses reported that their employers included nurses and other employees in their violence risk assessments. 

According to the survey, the nurses felt that their employers often did not respond appropriately to reports of workplace violence. Thirty-three percent of the nurses polled stated that their employer did not investigate what happened. Less than half, at 41.6 percent, stated that their employers did investigate and 25.4 percent stated they did not know if their employer investigated. 

Nearly half, at 48.9 percent, of the nurses polled stated that their employer did not provide access to counseling, and 23.4 percent stated they did not know if their employer offered counseling. Only 27.7 percent of the nurses reported employers who offered counseling. 

Thirty-eight percent of nurses reported that their employers did not train or retrain employees after a violent event, and 18.6 percent stated they did not know if their employer provided training. Forty-three percent stated their employers did provide training after a violent workplace incident. 

Over half of the nurses, at 59.3 percent, reported that their employers did not implement changes following violence on the job. Around 19.5 percent stated they were sure if their employer made changes, and only 21.2 percent of nurses reported that their employer did implement changes. 

Additionally, around 44.8 percent reported that their employer ignored reports of workplace violence. Twenty-nine percent of the nurses polled stated that their employer reprimands or blames employees for reporting incidents, and 16.9 percent reported their employers discouraged employees from reporting violence on the job. 

The level of violence combined with the lack of appropriate responses by employers has nurses feeling the impacts of workplace violence. While 18.5 percent reported no injury or side effects, over 65.3 percent reported anxiety, fear, and increased vigilance. Over a third at 33.4 percent reported physical symptoms that impacted their job, and 27.4 percent stated that they had difficulty working in the environment that reminded them of the incident. Only five percent filed workers’ compensation claims, 22.9 percent took time off or reduced their work hours.  Over 3.7 percent report a physical injury that prevents them from working, and 9.7 percent report psychological effects that kept them from working. Around 19.2 percent changed their job, and 37.2 percent considered leaving nursing altogether. 

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has been strong advocate of the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act, which was introduced earlier last year. According to the AHA Fact Sheet, 44 percent of nurses reported physical violence in the workplace, and 68 percent reported verbal abuse. 

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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