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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Team Is Not Okay: Violence in Emergency Departments Across Disciplines in a Health System

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Introduction: Healthcare workers, particularly those in the emergency department (ED), experience high rates of injuries caused by workplace violence (WPV).

Objective: Our goal was to establish the incidence of WPV among multidisciplinary ED staff within a regional health system and assess its impact on staff victims.

Methods: We conducted a survey study of all multidisciplinary ED staff at 18 Midwestern EDs encompassing a larger health system between November 18–December 31, 2020. We solicited the incidence of verbal abuse and physical assault experienced and witnessed by respondents over the prior six months, as well as its impact on staff.

Results: We included responses from 814 staff (24.5% response rate) for final analysis with 585 (71.9%) indicating some form of violence experienced in the preceding six months. A total of 582 (71.5%) respondents indicated experiencing verbal abuse, and 251 (30.8%) indicated experiencing some form of physical assault. All disciplines experienced some type of verbal abuse and nearly all experienced some type of physical assault. One hundred thirty-five (21.9%) respondents indicated that being the victim of WPV has affected their ability to perform their job, and nearly half (47.6%) indicated it has changed the way they interact with or perceive patients. Additionally, 132 (21.3%) indicated experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and 18.5% reported they have considered leaving their position due to an incident.

Conclusion: Emergency department staff suffer violence at a high rate, and there is no discipline that is spared. As health systems seek to prioritize staff safety in violence-prone areas such as the ED, it is imperative to recognize that the entire multidisciplinary team is impacted and requires targeted efforts for improvement in safety.

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