Step Away From That Nurse! Violence in Healthcare Continues Unabated

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


November 19, 2014

In This Article

Is There an End to Workplace Violence?

Social and healthcare trends suggest that violence could continue to plague healthcare settings in the foreseeable future. Our hospitals have become places for the sickest of the sick, intensifying anxiety and tension on the part of friends and family members. Violence from the street spills over into urgent care facilities and trauma centers, and no one is turned away.

ED crowding has not eased, so wait times continue to frustrate people seeking care. The burgeoning elderly population is bringing with it an ever-expanding number of patients with dementia, and in many regions, access to mental health care is insufficient. Although violence is not part of the job, dealing with potentially violent people is still very real in healthcare.

Legislative solutions to workplace violence are being considered or have already passed in many states. Some of these laws mandate establishment of workplace violence prevention programs in healthcare facilities, and others increase penalties for those convicted of assaults on healthcare providers. However, many laws still pertain only to specific settings, such as the ED. For example, Texas recently made it a third-degree felony to assault an ED nurse, but it is still only a misdemeanor to assault a nurse elsewhere in a Texas hospital.[39] Except in the ED, it is a felony to assault a nurse in only a handful of states. Clearly, we have more work to do.

To find out the laws in your state, visit the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). The ENA also has extensive workplace violence resources for nurses.


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