A pervasive cultural mindset suggests that workplace violence is an acceptable part of the job for healthcare providers, specifically nurses and nurses’ assistants, who spend the most time with patients compared with other healthcare professionals. Violence must not be normalized by governing bodies, policymakers, or healthcare workers themselves.
Definition of workplace violence
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines workplace violence as “the intentional use of power, threatened or actual, against another person or a group, in work-related circumstances, that either result in or has a high degree of likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation (WHO, nd).”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty (NIOSH, 2021).
Several factors have contributed to the rising incidence of violence in our communities in general and in the healthcare community, in particular, which are outside the scope of this discussion. Nonetheless, healthcare workers are increasingly tasked with caring for patients who have caused or are at risk for causing self-harm or inflicting harm on others.
In 2018, there were 67,792 violence-related deaths in the United States (US) (CDC, 2020). Health care workers are even more at risk due to their responsibility to prevent disease and respond to medical emergencies appropriately, even when patients are violent, either self-directed violence or interpersonal violence. Interpersonal violence is defined as the use of physical force to injure others.
In 2017 the total medical costs related to violence were approximately $8.7 billion related to emergency visits, hospitalizations, and short-term and long-term care needs (Grossman & Choucair, 2019).
Clinicians have adopted screening for violent patients to prevent violent acts in the workplace to protect both patients and healthcare workers. Unfortunately, today's reality is workplace violence can occur in any work setting, especially in the clinical setting. Clinicians must anticipate and remain vigilant at all times to effectively manage and cope with aggressive patients and those with the potential to become violent.
Frequently, media outlets sensationalize every incidence of violence, and the advent of social media makes reports of violence an ever-present threat seeking to grab our attention. In the long run, this desensitizes us to violent situations that have long-lasting psychosocial consequences on society. More specifically, violence in a clinical setting can have debilitating results affecting not just the patient being violent but also the clinical staff and other patients. There are financial ramifications borne by the perpetrators of violence, the victims of violence, and the employers of these institutions or clinics where violence occurs.