Physician Abuse as Reported by Early-Career Nurses

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP


September 20, 2013

Positive Work Environments of Early-Career Registered Nurses and the Correlation With Physician Verbal Abuse

Brewer CS, Kovner CT, Obeidat RF, Budin WC
Nurs Outlook. 2013 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Study Summary

Verbal abuse in the workplace is a common experience for registered nurses (RNs). Another recent study by these investigators, using the same database, examined nurse-on-nurse abuse. That article attracted a great deal of attention, with a large number of Medscape readers citing their own experiences of this phenomenon. This current study focuses on physician abuse of new graduate RNs, the nurse and work setting attributes associated with abuse, and the relationship between the amount of verbal abuse received and the intent of nurses to leave the organizations where they work. Previous studies have concluded that physicians are the most common source of abuse of nurses, although those studies have been limited by methodologic flaws, use of small convenience samples, and unclear definitions of abuse.

This analysis used data from the fourth wave of an ongoing national panel survey of nurses first administered in 2006 and last sent to participants in 2011. At the time of the fourth survey, respondents had been working for up to 6 years as RNs. Participants completed a shortened 6-item Verbal Abuse Scale (VAS) which asked respondents to report how frequently they had experienced any verbal abuse from physicians. Participants were asked whether they had experienced a physician yelling or raising his/her voice in an angry manner, swearing or making obscene comments, making insulting comments, using condescension, making humiliating or abusive comments disguised as jokes, or ignoring the nurse. Abuse was quantified on 3 levels: never, 1-5 times in the previous 3 months, or more than 5 times in the previous 3 months. A total VAS score for each participant was calculated by adding the scores for each item and dividing by the number of items answered. Scores ranged from 1 to 3, with higher scores indicating more severe abuse.


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