Violence against nurses remains a big problem

By | 2021-05-07T15:13:30-04:00 July 17th, 2017|4 Comments

Violence against nurses and other healthcare professionals continues to be an ongoing problem, with assault cases and legislation to address the matter making headlines in recent months.

For instance, Massachusetts state lawmakers were scheduled to hold a hearing at the State House on July 11 on legislation that will strengthen the penalties for assaulting a healthcare worker while also streamlining how victims of healthcare workplace violence are able to use the justice system, according to an article by PR Newswire.

The bill – S.765/H.795 – will increase the penalty for assaulting RNs, emergency medical technicians and other healthcare providers from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by either up to two-and-a-half years in jail or not more than five years in state prison, according to the article.

“Healthcare professionals are being assaulted at a rate four times greater than those working in other industries,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, according to the PR Newswire article. “Fear of violence and actual violence is rampant in Massachusetts healthcare facilities. An assault on a nurse is a serious action and should be taken seriously by our judicial system.”

Violence against nurses results in lawsuit

And last month, news media outlets reported that four nurses are suing an Illinois corrections officer after a prison inmate gained control of his gun and used it to escape and then rape a nurse, according to a Medscape article published online June 8.

Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Ill., was the location of the altercation where on May 13, 2017, Tywon Salters, a 21-year-old prison inmate was being treated. The Kane County officer, Shawn Loomis unshackled Salters so he could use the restroom at which point he took the officer’s gun and two nurses hostage. The article stated that Officer Loomis allegedly ran away and hid in another room.

According to the article, during a May 25 press briefing, Sean Murray, the nurses’ attorney, “What we’re largely concerned with is this never should have happened. There never should have been that opportunity. ….I’d like to know why the officer went in the other room and closed the door, and didn’t take any further action to subdue the gunman, and I think all of those questions need to be answered before we get to anything else.”

Initially, only two nurses were part of the lawsuit, but an amended complaint adds two others, “…one who had been taking care of Salters that morning and saw him unshackled, then was later near the room where the standoff culminated, and another who had been in the third-floor room where the officer allegedly fled,” an Aurora Beacon News article from June 1 stated.

The unlawful act comes on the heels of a national concern over the safety of healthcare workers and a West Coast push last fall to develop hospital rules against violence.

California has developed violence against healthcare workers protocols, including the Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare standard, which took effect April 1. The rules could become a model for other states, the article suggests.

According to an NPR article, Kathy Hughes, RN, spokesperson for the SEIU Nurse Alliance of California, ssaid hundreds of healthcare professionals her organization contacted had accepted the idea that assaults happen at work. But “violence shouldn’t be part of the job,” Hughes said.

A Hospitals and Health Networks article published June 9 talks about how attitudes on violence in the workplace are changing at the 15-hospital, Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care system. The attitude shift was spearheaded by Jessica Rosing, RN. “To address the problem, Aurora Health Care put together a system-wide steering committee about a year ago, on which Rosing participated,” the article stated. “Leaders found violence to be grossly underreported at Aurora and elsewhere in the field, says Mary Beth Kingston, R.N., executive vice president and chief nursing officer of the Wisconsin system.”

To understand the scope of the issue, they set up a call center to report verbal or physical incidents with patients, according to the article. “In just the first three weeks of the pilot, Aurora saw more reported incidents than in all of 2015, which Kingston believes is a sign of progress,” the article stated.


Courses Related to ‘Nurse Safety’

CE130-60: Preventing Violence in the Healthcare Setting (1 contact hrs)
Violence in healthcare reflects the chaos of a broader work environment. Experts not only agree on the extent of violence in the healthcare setting, but they also concur on its best treatment — education and prevention. Nurses heighten their awareness and expertise in dealing with violence in their professional settings by learning to identify risk factors and warning signs and by applying interventions that could shield their patients and themselves from harm.

WEB307: Nurse, Take Care of Thy Self (1 contact hr)
Nurses are known for taking care of others at the cost of their own well-being. Lack of self-care can lead to compassion fatigue, personal health issues and a lack of work life balance. When a nurse takes the time to care for themselves, both their colleagues and patients will reap the benefit. As easy as it sounds, it can be hard to create a work life balance, exercise, and be a nurse role model. When pursuing continuing education or a new professional role, self-care and time management are key to helping yourself be successful.

CE430: Safer Patient Handling Saves Nurses’ Backs (1 contact hr)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants had an incidence rate of injury of 372.5 in 2014, a decrease from 392.8 in 2013. Nurses ranked fifth among all occupations for highest incidence rates of musculoskeletal disorders resulting in days away from work, with 11,610 total cases. “Injuries and illnesses resulting from overexertion and bodily reaction accounted for 55% of the cases occurring to nursing assistants and decreased to 21,430 cases in 2014. The incidence rate for overexertion and bodily reaction for nursing assistants was 204.6 — more than five times greater than for all workers.”


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About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for from Relias. She develops and edits content for the blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the Digital Editions. She has more than 25 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.


  1. Avatar
    Barbara Q White August 4, 2017 at 2:09 am - Reply

    I have been an RN for 31 years. I work in an Emergency Room, where I have in fact, been assualted. The management of the hospital had very little interest in what happened not only to me, but to my co workers who also have been assaulted. Due to the nature of our work, it is ‘expected’ that ‘these things will happen’, per management. Included in our ER, is a locked unit for psychiatric patients, which we, as ER nurses (not trained psychiatric nurses) are expected to man. There is no guard/security present to keep us safe. Security cameras which do not capture the entire circumference of the rooms that the patients occupy, can allow for a patient to easily attack a nurse without securitys’ knowledge, and therefore, if they don’t ‘see it’ , it didn’t happen! No measures are in place for nursing safety. As time goes on, and more and more mentally ill patients come into the healthcare setting, it will become more apparent that security/guards should be a set standard of care. Afterall, if the nurse isn’t safe, neither are the paying patients..And God only knows, its the paying patient that administration is concerned about, not the nurses!!

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    June Garen August 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I am an RN working in NH. On June 26, 2017, I was the victim of a patient assault resulting in skull fractures, grade 3 concussion, and SAH. I am learning that there is little in place to give health care providers any protection or recourse from assaults in the workplace. I have also learned that there was an attempt to address this through state legislation last year, but the bill died in committee. I am working to have the bill sponsored again this year in the hope that we may make health care workplaces safer. I am sending a shout out to all NH nurses who would be willing to help in this project and testify at the upcoming legislative meeting. Thanks!

  3. Avatar
    Dj August 20, 2017 at 3:22 am - Reply

    Work place violence. Was recently fired because I stood up to my director. Now fighting for my license false accusations.

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    DelusionalLegislation December 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Do you seriously believe that legislation will protect you from a patient you almost mistreated to death?

    (I know, you people will claim that he only FELT mistreated, etc… but patients do now how to read, and they sometimes learn quite a lot of medical knowledge to understand their records and understand how exactly they’ve been abused).

    I hope these patients are a minority among the violent patients.

    But I won’t believe that without sound evidence.

    The best deterent is sometimes giving in to patients. Some just want to be left alone once and for all. Like me. Not all are drug seekers or people with the lowest motives imaginable.

    I know that’s something waaayyy beyond what an MD can understand. Ascribing the lowest possible motives to patients is kind of a best practice without which an MD looses the respect of its peers. It’s the material of so many so funny so-called medical jokes by the way.

    So I’ll likely remain violent. Though I’d really like not to.

    You people do not like patients. You like diseases. Much like Mother Theresa did not like the poor but rather liked poverty.

    Eventually, you only end up liking patients that reciprocate to you the caring self image you crafted for yourself. The others can just go to hell.

    No wonder patients become violent.

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