Hospital staff experience workplace aggression every 40 hours

Hospital staff members experience 1.17 aggressive events — verbal and/or physical — for every 40 hours worked, with more aggression events occurring when staff have significantly greater numbers of patients assigned to them, a recent study found.

The study, published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, examined incidence of patient and visitor aggressive events toward staff at five inpatient medical units in community hospitals and academic hospitals in the Northeastern U.S. The date was collected using even counters, aggressive incident and management logs and demographic forms over a 14-day period in early 2017.

Here are six findings:

  1. There was a total of 179 aggressive events and a rate of 2.54 aggressive events per 20 patient-days.

  2. Patient verbal aggression was higher than physical aggression events (2.00 events per 20 patient-days for the former versus 0.85 events for the latter).

  3. Staff exposure rates came to 1.17 events per 40 hours worked, with verbal aggression exposure rates at 0.92 events and physical aggression exposure rate at 0.39 events per 40 hours.

  4. The most common precipitants were medication administration (18.6%), waiting for care (17.2%) and delivering food and drinks (15.9%).

  5. About 75% of events were managed with verbal de-escalation.

  6. The number of patients assigned to staff was significantly greater during a shift when an aggressive event occurred compared to when no events occurred.

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