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Violence against nurses is a despairing reality for healthcare personnel since nurses are the people who interact most with patients, and they are the first to be verbally and physically assaulted. There are many cases in which patients or healthcare staff abuse the affection nurses dedicate to their profession, mistreat them, violate their rights as people, assault them, etc. The fact that nurses often do not file a complaint or that there are no consequences for the aggressors keeps this violence hidden. It is important to note that the recent pandemic has caused this violence to increase, but it is not an excuse to treat badly a person providing a service.

Nurses have a very noble profession: they serve patients with love and dedication, often putting up with their own needs so they can tend to the needs of others. It is a profession that requires an enormous amount of commitment, dedication, and humanity, and most nurses begin their work day with a smile on their faces, ready to serve the people who are their patients. Being on the receiving end of violence when they dedicate their care to patients can lead to feelings of depression, rejection, or guilt and can lead to a decision to leave the job they entered with a calling to help others.

The recent pandemic has left hospitals with little access to comprehensive patient care, a general shortage of physicians and nurses, getting a shift in a hospital is very difficult, patients and nurses alike feel exhausted and irritable, and this has led to increased violence. Of course, this is not a justification for violence, but these reasons explain the increase. One of the main problems with the rise in violence is that the quality of care, patient safety, and the ability of nurses to provide care without fear of each patient’s reaction is greatly diminished. 

How Often does Violence Against Nurses Occur? 

Violence against nurses is a growing problem worldwide. 1 in 4 nurses suffers from abuse while working, and the most common type of violence is by the patient or the patient’s companion. It is pervasive that these incidents are not reported, as there is no follow-up or there are no sanctions towards the patients. It is estimated that only 20-60% of incidents of violence against nurses are reported precisely because there are no protocols or protocols ignored when there is some abuse of nurses. Nurses are the most susceptible workers to suffer from some workplace abuse, whether it is threats, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. It should not be ignored, as it causes absenteeism and job abandonment, stress, decreased quality of care on the part of the abused person, depression, and feelings of guilt.

In a study published in 2019, the leading causes of violence found were that patients and their companions had unrealistically high expectations of healthcare and broke hospital rules or were asked to use substances prohibited in the hospital.

It is important to emphasize to all nurses that the violence they experience is not their fault and that they should report it even though it is a tedious and time-consuming process. 

How to End Nurse Abuse 

Many solutions can be taken to end violence against nurses. Nurses should always report the violent situation and seek support to deal with what happened to them, whether it is a physical or verbal assault. Another important way to end nurse abuse is to raise awareness in the general population of what is happening so that more people understand that putting up with whatever the patient does is not the nurses’ job. Establishing protocols in health centers and hospitals and training all health personnel to de-escalate violent situations, train the staff in dealing with challenging patients, or know how to act when faced with them. Hospitals should also recognize that violence exists and provide the necessary attention to nurses who suffer from violence since it should be the hospitals themselves who ask their nurses to report abuse.

Nursa is an app that connects nurses with employers and has a team working to raise awareness about nurse abuse and the importance of nurse safety. Nursa cares about the well-being of nurses and patients and understands that when nurses feel safe in their work environment, patients’ safety increases.

Although the challenges for nurses may be on the rise, nurses continue to do their job of helping others, and they deserve admiration, respect, and care. Nurse safety is vitally important to the smooth functioning of hospitals.

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

SEO Content Marketing Manager Miranda is a 14-year registered nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and digital marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Bolivia, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her spending time with her family traveling in the Andes Mountains.

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