Violence affects nursing recruitment, retention, NNU report finds

Violence against nurses in the workplace is rising, and healthcare employers are failing to address it. The combination of the two is hurting recruitment and retention, according to a report published Feb. 5 from National Nurses United.

A vast majority of nurses — 81.6% — reported to NNU for the report that they have experienced workplace violence, with half stating they have seen instances of violence increase in the last year. 

"As a result, nurses are subjected to multiple impacts of workplace violence, including physical and mental injury," the report summary states. "Injuries, including both physical and non-physical, can result in long-term physical and mental harm, resulting in RNs requiring medical care, taking time off work, and/or considering leaving their jobs or profession altogether." 

In total, 60% of nurses say workplace violence has led them to change jobs, leave jobs or at least consider leaving the job or even the profession entirely, according to the report. And more than a quarter, 26.3%, feel violence has increased significantly in the last year alone.

Specifically, nurses reported the following experience to NNU: 

  • Verbally threatened 67.8%
  • Physically threatened 38.7%
  • Pinched or scratched 37.3%
  • Slapped, punched, or kicked 36.2%
  • Objects thrown at you 34.6%
  • Verbally harassed based on your sex or appearance 33.3%
  • Spat on or exposed to other bodily fluids 29.9%
  • Groped or touched inappropriate 19.8%

Around 18% noted they have not experienced workplace violence at all.

But as the number of these instances rise, some hospitals and health systems are struggling to implement solutions. 

Proactive measures including, unit-specific workplace violence prevention plans created with employee input and appropriate staffing levels are recommendations that have been proven to help mitigate these instances when they rise, but the NNU's report, which included an analysis of these measures found that "many health care employers continue to fail to implement these essential protections."

The NNU report was compiled using data collected between January 2023 and Dec. 31, 2023, from a survey given by the organization to nurses in hospitals, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, medical settings and a small percentage of retired nurses and those who have left healthcare. Focus groups were also conducted to further drill into specific trends. 

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