Violence against Emergency Department nurses; Can we identify the perpetrators? [2020]

Violence against health care workers is a major issue in health care organisations and is estimated to affect 95% of workers, presenting an enormous risk for workers and employers. Current interventions generally aim at managing rather than preventing or minimising violent incidents. To create better-targeted interventions, it has been suggested to shift attention to the perpetrators of violence. The aim of this study was to identify and discuss the perceptions, held by Emergency Department nurses, about perpetrators of occupational violence and aggression.

Two focus groups were conducted with Emergency Department nurses at a major metropolitan hospital in Australia. In the focus groups, the nurses’ perceptions about perpetrators of violence against health care workers were identified and discussed. The results were analysed using descriptive analysis.

This study confirmed that violence is a major issue for Emergency Department nurses and has a considerable impact on them. Participants acknowledged that violence at work had become an intrinsic part of their job and they tend to focus on coping mechanisms. The nurses identified six overlapping groups of perpetrators and described their approach to dealing with these perpetrators. The results highlighted additional factors that impact on the occurrence and management of violence, such as the presence of security, wait times, and the triage system.

Based on the focus groups with Emergency Department nurses we conclude that violence at work is an everyday danger for Emergency Department nurses, who feel vulnerable and recognise that it is not within their power to solve this issue given the societal component. Our conclusion is that attention needs to shift from equipping workers with tools to manage violence to the perpetrator and the development of interventions to reduce violence from targeted perpetrator groups.

Evelien Spelten, Brodie Thomas, Peter O’Meara, Julia van Vuuren, Anthony McGillion
PLOS ONE, April 2, 2020