5 Ways to Effectively Deal with Workplace Violence in Nursing

 workplace-violence-in-nursingBy Jane Anderson, Contributor

Whether you hold a position as a floor nurse, home health nurse or travel nurse your career choice requires a combination of clinical techniques, book knowledge, and people skills. It’s time to add one more item to your knowledge base, and that’s how to deal with workplace violence in the nursing profession.

Take your skills on the road with Onward Healthcare!

Aggressiveness has crept into just about every aspect of society, and unfortunately, it is often nurses who must deal with the fallout. According to Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, risk manager at Nurses Service Organization, “Nurses are at increased risk for experiencing workplace violence due to their close contact with patients, as well as working in an occupational environment marked by stressed and burnout.”

Catherine Burger, BSN, MSOL, RN, NEA-BC from www.registerednursing.org, emphasizes that “training is the best way to mitigate workplace violence for nurses.” To help you get a head start in violence prevention, we have gathered these five tips from nursing experts.

Identify the types of workplace violence in nursing

Burger further explains that nurses may experience physical alterations with patients and even psychological lateral violence from colleagues or leaders.

Patient Aggression

Whether it’s from drugs, pain or psychological disturbances, patients often lash out, and as Flynn pointed out earlier, nurses are most at risk. Attempting to provide care or perform a simple procedure can result in injuries from an out-of-control patient.

Additionally, some patients routinely treat nurses with a lack of respect that borders upon harassment, whether sexual or emotional. These individuals may embrace violence as part of their daily lives, and nurses must always be on their guard. Mind SquadHR’s CEO Sheri Mooney, Esq., says, “We urge nursing staff and other healthcare providers to trust their instincts when assessing a situation. Mindfulness is critical for this stress-filled profession.”

Coworker Hostility

To perform to the best of their ability, nurses should feel comfortable with management and coworkers. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case, and it is even more regrettable that nurses sometimes remain silent about episodes of workplace violence in nursing.

Set immediate boundaries

Stop problems before they start by letting patients know as soon as they have crossed a line. Jennifer tells nurses to communicate immediately to patients that their comments and actions are unwanted. She also suggests you document the situation and any conversation, verbatim, if possible. Remember to set a good example yourself by treating your coworkers with respect in front of patients.

Learn diffusing techniques

Proper training in environmental interventions can prevent a small incident from escalating into a full-fledged problem. Tom Syzek, MD, FACEP, is the Vice President of e-Learning Services at TheSullivan Group, and he offers the following suggestions on how to deal with a pressure-filled situation.


  • Stay at eye level with the patient but avoid direct eye contact.
  • Use verbal reassurance.
  • Avoid pointing a finger or making a fist.
  • Give short, assertive, nonthreatening directives.
  • Give the patient something to do.
  • Show compassion.


Take positive action

Don’t wait for a problem to occur. Get some advice through YouTube’sinformative nursing videos, look for seminars either through CE credits or HR programs and then plan how you’ll react if you're faced with an angry patient or experience unwelcome comments from a coworker or supervisor.

NCO's website includes a learning center which has resources and materials to help you prepare to deal with workplace violence in nursing. Additionally, OSHA provides access to a set of guidelines that address workplaceviolence in healthcare.

Report violations promptly

Flynn thinks that “the best defense for nurses starts with reporting these types of incidents.” Nurses may feel that harassment is “part of the job” or be worried that a report will reflect poorly on their performance review. She went on to say that “national reporting found that only about a third of nurses reported incidents and, in some cases, it was found that the nurses were so intimidated or demeaned in their environment that it negatively affected their job performance.”

While you might not be able to completely prevent workplace violence in nursing, a thorough grasp of the above tactics can help you reduce your chance of becoming a victim and possibly help a threatened coworker.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

How can I help you?