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Study pinpoints issues that leave ED nurses vulnerable

Sunday February 9, 2014
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A qualitative study on assaults on emergency nurses, sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association, found a need to change the culture of acceptance that is prevalent among hospital administrators and law enforcement.

Better training to help nurses recognize signs of potential trouble also is key, according to researchers, whose study was published Jan. 17 on the website of the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

“Assaults on emergency nurses have lasting impacts on the nurses and the ability of emergency care facilities to provide quality care,” 2014 ENA President Deena Brecher, RN, MSN, APN, ACNS-BC, CEN, CPEN, said in a news release.

“More than 70% of emergency nurses reported physical or verbal assaults by patients or visitors while they were providing care. As a result, we lose experienced and dedicated nurses to physical or psychological trauma for days or sometimes permanently. Healthcare organizations have a responsibility to nurses and the public to provide a safe and secure environment.”

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, an assault on a healthcare worker is the most common source of nonfatal injury or illness requiring days off from work in the healthcare and social assistance industry.

Despite that statistic, the qualitative research study discovered a culture of acceptance among hospital administrators, prosecutors and judges. One emergency nurse assault victim told the researchers the “administration will only take action when some lethal event happens.”

Perhaps in correlation with the culture of acceptance, the study also concluded that emergency nurses and hospital personnel in general are not trained to recognize cues for violent behavior.

“It is imperative that hospitals and emergency care workers address the issue preemptively through adoption of violence prevention education, zero-tolerance policies, safety measures and procedures for reporting and responding to incidents of workplace violence when they do occur,” the researchers noted. “Such actions are necessary to help nurses recognize incipient violence.”

The ENA long has taken the position that healthcare organizations must take preventive measures to circumvent workplace violence and ensure the safety of all healthcare workers, their patients and visitors.

“There will always be the potential for violence against emergency nurses,” Brecher said. “But we must not accept it as the price of helping the sick and injured. With training and a change of culture, we can significantly decrease the occurrence of assaults against emergency nurses.”

The study was conducted using a qualitative descriptive exploratory design. In the fall of 2012, a sample of ED nurses was recruited by email from the roster of ENA nurses and through an announcement on the ENA website. Eight men, 37 women and one person of unknown gender responded to the question, “Tell me about your experience of violence in the emergency setting.” Answers were emailed to and analyzed by the Institute for Emergency Nursing Research.

Only one other previous qualitative study is known to have been conducted to address workplace violence against emergency nurses in the United States since at least 2004, according to the news release.

Study abstract: http://bit.ly/1iwMuM8


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