WORKPLACE VIOLENCE ON THE RISE
How many of you have had an irate patient or family member show up at your office or in the
hospital? As we all know, being in any health care setting is stressful for all of those involved.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “From 2002 to 2013,
incidents of serious workplace violence were four times more common in health care settings
than in private industry.” OSHA also noted that “approximately 75 percent of nearly 25,000
workplace assaults reported annually occurred in health care and social service settings and
workers in health care setting.” 1 Have you ever experience workplace violence from your
patients and or visitors/family members?
The U.S. Department of Labor defines workplace violence as an action (verbal, written, or
physical aggression) which is intended to control or cause, or is capable of causing, death or
serious bodily injury to oneself or others, or damage to property. Workplace violence includes
abusive behavior toward authority, intimidating or harassing behavior, and threats. 2
The 2014 Journal of Healthcare Protection Management reported that, “hospital crime attributed
75 percent of aggravated assaults and 93 percent of all assaults against health care workers to
patients or customers.” 3 There have been multiple reports of health care workers who have
been slapped, punched, spit on, cussed out, kicked, verbally abused, and even worse. Most
health care providers, when asked, have noted that it is just part of their job. Patients and
families are stressed, confused, medicated, not medicated enough, and situations escalate
quickly. In fact, some studies have shown that 40 to 75 percent of health care workers have
suffered physical or verbal abuse from a patient or their family. But just because providers are
put in those situations, does that justify it “being part of their job?”
In fact, according to the New England Journal of Medicine just 30% of nurses and 26% of
physicians go on to report the incident, The most common type of violence in health care is
patient/visitor to worker. How does your clinic or hospital handle these situations? Do you fire
patients from the practice, have you contacted security to help you, do you report the incident to
the hospital or to your supervisor? Do you have regulatory approaches to preventing workplace
1. Security Industry Association and International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation. Mitigating the risk of
workplace violence in health care settings. Silver Spring, MD: Security Industry Assocation, August 2017.
2. U.S. Department of Labor. DOL Workplace Violence Program — Appendices. Definitions. Washington, D.C.: DOL, no date.
3. Vellani KH. The 2014 IHSSF crime survey. Journal of Healthcare Protection Management, 2014;30(2):28-35.