Assaulted and Unheard: Violence Against Healthcare Staff

“Healthcare workers regularly face the risk of violent physical, sexual, and verbal assault from their patients. To explore this phenomenon, a collaborative descriptive qualitative study was undertaken by university-affiliated researchers and a union council representing registered practical nurses, personal support workers, and other healthcare staff in Ontario, Canada. A total of fifty-four healthcare workers from diverse communities were consulted about their experiences and ideas. They described violence-related physical, psychological, interpersonal, and financial effects. They put forward such ideas for prevention strategies as increased staffing, enhanced security, personal alarms, building design changes, “zero tolerance” policies, simplified reporting, using the criminal justice system, better training, and flagging. They reported such barriers to eliminating risks as the normalization of violence; underreporting; lack of respect from patients, visitors, higher status professionals, and supervisors; poor communication; and the threat of reprisal for speaking publicly. Inadequate postincident psychological and financial support compounded their distress.”