Table of Contents

How to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare

One of the most significant risks in healthcare is also one of the most untalked-about factors: violence in the workplace. Healthcare professionals deal with individuals experiencing drug psychosis, mental health crises, violent offenders, and more. That’s why any hiring manager in the healthcare field needs to have a plan to prevent violence in the workplace. 

Here are a few quick factors you’ll need to know about workplace violence in healthcare.

Violence in Healthcare Statistics

Here’s the hard truth.

  • Healthcare workers make up 70% of the victims of non-fatal workplace violence.
  • Approx. 40% of healthcare workers will be victims of violence during their careers.
  • Studies show that workplace violence in healthcare increased 159% in recent years.
  • 80% of states have increased penalties for assaulting healthcare workers doing their job.

Types of Workplace Violence in Healthcare

Understanding workplace violence in healthcare requires understanding what constitutes violence, who is likely to cause it, and its impact on healthcare professionals. In the broadest terms, here are the types of violence to be aware of.

Verbal abuse makes up 61% of workplace violence in healthcare. It’s the most common form of violence in healthcare worldwide and causes psychological distress and loss of confidence in healthcare professionals. Furthermore, a significant portion of verbal abuse is undocumented and thus impossible to track. It’s worth mentioning that studies show a difference in how doctors respond to verbal abuse versus nurses. An NIH study of 245 healthcare professionals noted that doctors use humor to cope with verbal abuse. In comparison, nurses seek to clarify misunderstandings between them and their patients.

A notable portion – up to 26% – of verbal abuse comes from senior staff members instead of patients, with one of the most common methods being assigning blame for a workplace error. 

At 50%, psychological violence is the second most common form of workplace violence, which includes threats of physical violence. Patients and their family members commit the bulk of psychological violence, and has the most considerable negative impact on nurses and nurse interns. Psychological violence, like other workplace violence, can increase the rate of turnover, cause loss of confidence, make it harder to diagnose illnesses, and otherwise create a further disconnect between patients and healthcare professionals. 

Sexual harassment totals 6.3%. It’s worth mentioning that up to 60% of SA, regardless of environment, goes unreported. The likelihood and danger of SA increases for home health care professionals and has a higher chance of going unreported. SA can cause PTSD, shame, anxiety, and a justifiable unwillingness to return to the location of the assault.

Physical violence makes up approximately 13% of workplace violence in healthcare. Physical violence causes PTSD, sleep loss, quitting, and psychological distress. 

Multiple studies describe workplace violence in healthcare as a rising and disturbing trend that can result in staffing shortages and increased time between initial care and correct diagnoses. The fact is that violence in the healthcare industry affects all parts of the career, from employees and patients to the institution itself. 

Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Options

To be clear, violence committed in the workplace is rarely, if ever, the fault of an employee. However, you can do a few things to curb the chances of a healthcare professional being attacked. 

The Buddy System: The buddy system is a timeless option for preventing workplace violence in healthcare. Ensuring every team member has at least one other person near them during patient interactions can discourage verbal threats, SA, and physical violence. It also helps practitioners feel safer, which, in turn, can help them focus on treating the patient. 

Training: It takes a high degree of psychological resilience to endure constant violence and do one’s job. Mandatory training and counseling prepares healthcare providers with the tools and resources to overcome, prevent, and cope with violent experience.

Zero-tolerance policies: As mentioned, a notable portion of verbal violence originates from senior staff members. Implementing zero-tolerance policies for this behavior is an easy deterrent that helps foster the collaborative nature of a healthcare environment.

Security Measures: Security measures include cameras, planning exit routes for emergencies, having security guards and metal detectors, and understanding which patients, based on their history, have an increased chance of committing violence.

Workplace Violence Prevention Programs

There are dozens of programs designed to prevent workplace violence in healthcare. Ultimately, you must research independently to find the best for you. But here are a few to get you started.

OSHA eTools: This program details common causes of workplace violence in healthcare, plans to prevent them, and outlines other common workplace hazards.

Department of Labor Violence Prevention: This program centers around preventing violence in any industry. It provides actionable steps and detailed ways to create plans should violence occur.

Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses: Created by the CDC, this online course is tailored to teach nurses everything they need to prevent workplace violence.

Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act

The Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act, also known as SAVE, protects healthcare workers of all forms. It mandates stricter punishments for individuals who intentionally attack healthcare professionals.

The Bottom Line

Based on trends, workplace violence in healthcare will continue to rise unless addressed. Healthcare providers, hospitals, and patients will suffer should these incidents continue to occur. As a hiring manager, there are a few things you can do to prevent violence in the workplace. One of the easiest ways to do that is by conducting thorough background checks on potential employees. For example, checking the references of a senior staff member you’re hiring can reveal their history of causing workplace drama or belittling their subordinates.

Additionally, background checks help curb high turnover rates and reduce staff shortages. That’s where KarmaCheck can help. With our reliable, fast background check API, you’ll get the information you need to make an informed decision. Reach out today to explore your options.


Achieve the fastest turnaround you’ll ever experience.

Complete the form to get your copy