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More than half of emergency nurses assaulted or threatened in past 30 days


The Emergency Nurses Association released a survey that sheds more insight on the violent and volatile situations nurses routinely encounter.

The majority of nurses in emergency departments say they have been physically assaulted or threatened.

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The majority of emergency nurses say they've been assaulted or threatened with violence in the past 30 days, according to a new survey.

To be clear, they aren’t talking about their entire careers. Most emergency nurses say they’ve been attacked or encountered aggressive behavior in the previous month.

More than half (56%) of emergency nurses said they were attacked or threatened with violence in the past 30 days, according to a new survey released Thursday by the Emergency Nurses Association.

Nurses said they were kicked, slapped and punched. Others said they were head-butted, stabbed with a pencil or hit with thrown objects.

One nurse said a patient threatened to “cut my throat,” according to the survey. The patient also threatened to find out where the nurse lived.

About 1 in 10 of the emergency nurses surveyed said they were thinking of leaving nursing due to the ongoing violence they were encountering. The association surveyed nearly 500 emergency nurses between Feb. 11 and March 11.

Chris Dellinger, president of the Emergency Nurses Association, said the voices of nurses who have been assaulted need to be heard.

“The violence and incivility against emergency nurses and their emergency care team partners – who are in the ED around-the-clock, every day, ready to care for anyone who enters – is unacceptable,” Dellinger said in a statement.

Dellinger and other nursing leaders traveled to Washington to meet with congressional staffers last month to draw more attention to the need to curb violence in healthcare. They also are pushing Congress to pass legislation that would offer more federal protections, including tougher penalties for those who assault healthcare workers.

At the March briefing, Dellinger said violence was a rarity when she began her career in emergency nursing.

“As the years have gone on, and as the pandemic has ensued, we have actually seen an increase in violence,” Dellinger said. “I have been hit. I have been slapped. I have been kicked. I've had a computer thrown at me. I've been verbally assaulted. Verbal assault happens pretty much every day, in every shift. And our members of our association, we hear about violence every single day.”

The Emergency Nurses Association and other nursing organizations are striving to correct the perception that nurses and other healthcare leaders should simply tolerate assaults and aggressive behavior as part of the job. The group is also speaking out as the National Institutes of Health has recognized April as Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness Month.

Nursing and hospital leaders have decried the rising violence in hospitals in recent years. Terry Foster, the former president of the Emergency Nurses Association, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in an interview last summer that he couldn’t recall seeing violence at this level in his career, which spans more than four decades.

“Violence in the emergency department for nurses is a tremendous problem,” Foster said last August. “It's something that I've never seen before at this level.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said passing legislation to improve protections for healthcare workers is a top priority.

At the Hospital + Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania Leadership Summit this week, Pollack reiterated the importance of enacting legislation, which would provide protections for healthcare workers similar to those for airline workers. Pollack noted the wide attention given to assaults of airline employees, while attacks on nurses and doctors get little recognition.

When airline employees are assaulted “it makes national news, and that happens every day in our organizations, unfortunately,” Pollack said at the summit Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., is the lead sponsor of the House bill, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind. U.S. Sens. U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have sponsored a bill in the Senate.

“We want to get traction on this legislation,” Pollack said.

Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the American Nurses Association, has also called for greater protections for nurses and other healthcare professionals.

She also called on healthcare organizations to do more to protect their workers.

“In many health care settings nurses are still experiencing violence at alarming rates,” Mensik Kennedy said in a statement last month. “Too many of my fellow nurses’ lives have already been lost to workplace violence. We need to act now to break the deadly cycle of violence against health care professionals.”

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