health care workersIn 2012, the Healthcare and Social Assistance (HCSA) sector was amongst the largest industry sectors in the U.S. employing an estimated 19.4 million workers (13.5% of the total workforce)[1]. On average, over the last decade, U.S. healthcare workers have accounted for two-thirds of the nonfatal workplace violence injuries in all industries involving days away from work [2].  Healthcare workers face the risk of both physical violence and non-physical violence, such as verbal abuse, on the job.  These numbers represent only the assaults that resulted in time away from work and not the less severe physical injuries or the psychological trauma that HCSA workers experience from workplace violence. Additionally, these data only capture the reported incidents.  The literature suggests that the number of assaults reported by healthcare workers is greatly underreported.

Employers seeking to establish an effective workplace violence prevention program in the healthcare industry should incorporate prevention strategies that focus on risk factors from several perspectives including: clinical (patients under the influence of drugs or alcohol) [3,4,5]; environmental (physical layout, design, and contents of the workplace); organizational (policies, procedures, and culture) [3]; and social and economic (distraught family members and challenging economic circumstances) [3].  The 2002 NIOSH publication “Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals” discusses prevention strategies in terms of environmental (installing security devices), administrative (staffing patterns), and behavioral (training).  

NIOSH and its partners recognized the lack of workplace violence prevention training available to nurses and other healthcare workers. To address this need, NIOSH and healthcare stakeholders, including nursing and labor organizations, academic groups, other government agencies, and Vida Health Communications, Inc. developed a new free on-line course aimed at training nurses in recognizing and preventing workplace violence.  The course also encourages nurses to become proactive in working with their employers to prevent violence in the healthcare setting.  The multi-media training incorporates text, videos depicting workplace violence incidents, testimonials from real nurses, and module quizzes. Nurses can also receive free continuing education credits for completing the online course.

Click here to read the entire CDC - NIOSH Science Blog post.