Research| Volume 40, ISSUE 4, P305-310, July 2014

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Nothing Changes, Nobody Cares: Understanding the Experience of Emergency Nurses Physically or Verbally Assaulted While Providing Care

Published:January 17, 2014DOI:


      Workplace violence has been recognized as a violent crime that requires targeted responses from employers, law enforcement, and the community. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common source of nonfatal injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in the health care and social assistance industry was assault on the health care worker. What is not well understood are the precursors and sequelae of violence perpetrated against emergency nurses and other health care workers by patients and visitors. The purpose of this study was to better understand the experience of emergency nurses who have been physically or verbally assaulted while providing patient care in US emergency departments.


      The study was conducted using a qualitative descriptive exploratory design. The sample consisted of 46 written narratives submitted by e-mail by emergency nurses describing the experience of violence while providing care at work. Narrative analysis and constant comparison were used to identify emerging themes in the narratives.


      “Environmental,” “personal,” and “cue recognition” were identified as the themes. Overall, nurses believed that violence was endemic to their workplace and that both limited recognition of cues indicating a high-risk person or environment and a culture of acceptance of violence were barriers to mitigation.


      These findings are consistent with the extant literature but with an added contribution of clearly identifying an underlying cultural acceptance of violence in the emergency department, as well as a distinct lack of cue recognition, in this sample of emergency nurses.

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      Lisa A. Wolf, Member, Pioneer Valley Chapter, is Director, Institute for Emergency Nursing Research, Emergency Nurses Association, Des Plaines, IL.


      Altair M. Delao is Senior Associate, Institute for Emergency Nursing Research, Emergency Nurses Association, Des Plaines, IL.


      Cydne Perhats is Senior Associate, Institute for Emergency Nursing Research, Emergency Nurses Association, Des Plaines, IL.

      Linked Article

      • Leadership’s Role in Eliminating Workplace Violence and Changing Perceptions in the Emergency Department
        Journal of Emergency NursingVol. 41Issue 1
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          The article “Nothing Changes, Nobody Cares: Understanding the Experience of Emergency Nurses Physically or Verbally Assaulted While Providing Care” by Wolf et al1 added a new dimension of knowledge to the topic of workplace violence in the emergency setting. I applaud the authors for exploring the experiences and aftereffects of assault on our profession.1 Sadly, I recognized the study’s findings related to pervasive acceptance of workplace violence in my own organization.1 As an emergency nurse in Texas, I celebrated when our governor signed House Bill 705 into law in 2013, making assault against ED personnel a third-degree felony.
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