​Workplace Violence

One in four nurses has been abused in the workplace. Overall, the likelihood that health care workers are exposed to violence is higher than for prison guards or police officers. The stories nurses tell are horrifying, and all too common. Every day, nurses are stabbed, punched, grabbed, kicked, verbally assaulted, or worse. Perpetrators can be patients and their family members, co-workers, supervisors and managers, and intimate partners.

Violence, unfortunately, is a workplace hazard. Abusive conduct can also undermine the quality of care nurses strive to provide every day. In 2022, the Joint Commission began to assess hospitals' plans to prevent workplace violence, through its new safety standards. This positive step could relieve some nurses of the burden of dealing with the risk of assault and abuse on the job.

Violence and abuse in health care can be prevented, with collaborative approaches. For years, ANA has led the charge to end nurse abuse, by activating nurses where they work, pushing for meaningful laws and regulations at the federal level, and supporting nurse advocates in states. Yet few health care employers have developed suitable plans to prevent workplace violence, putting nurses and others at risk daily, just for doing their job. It is of the utmost importance for nurses to be able to report abuse within their institutions. Reporting systems must also be linked to meaningful prevention programs, appropriate to the setting. Similarly, ANA continues to advocate for pathways for whistleblowers to come forward to report such abusive actions.

In April 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, (H.R. 1195​) with bipartisan support. This bill would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop enforceable standards  to protect employees from violent incidents in the workplace. A companion bill (S. 4182) was introduced in the Senate on May 11, 2022. ANA supports this legislation while also advocating for OSHA and the Department of Health and Human Services to use their existing authorities to address workplace violence in health care.

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