Press Release

NNU report shows increased rates of workplace violence experienced by nurses

Nurses in DC government hallway with signs "Safer hospitals safer care. Stop workplace violence before it happens"

Survey results reveal majority of nurses have experienced workplace violence, with nearly half seeing a rise in rates in the past year

Health care workers are experiencing a surge in workplace violence rates nationally, which has been exacerbated by the health care industry’s actions during the Covid-19 pandemic. A nationwide survey conducted by National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses, found that the majority of nurses have experienced workplace violence and nearly half have seen a rise in rates in the past year.

NNU’s report, released today, analyzes new data gathered from nearly 1,000 nurses working in 48 states and the District of Columbia. (Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023), regarding nurses’ recent experiences of workplace violence and shows that health care employers’ failure to implement effective prevention strategies is exacerbating the staffing crisis: 6 in 10 RNs report having changed or left their job or profession or considered leaving their job due to workplace violence.

NNU’s major findings on workplace violence include: 

  • Eight in 10 nurses (81.6 percent) have experienced at least one type of workplace violence within the past year.
  • Nearly half of nurses (45.5 percent) reported an increase in workplace violence on their unit in the previous year. In contrast, only 3.8 percent of nurses reported that workplace violence has decreased on their unit in the previous year.
  • Nurses experience multiple types of workplace violence on a daily basis, ranging from physical abuse to verbal threats. The three most common types of violence reported were being verbally threatened (67.8 percent), physically threatened (38.7 percent), and being pinched or scratched (37.3 percent).

To read the full report, including statistics and sources, go here.

Safe staffing is essential to workplace violence prevention. 

Only 29.5 percent of nurses report that their employer has staff available at all times to respond to workplace violence and a mere 17.0 percent of nurses report that their employer places additional staff to reduce the risk of violence.

When employers fail to safely staff units, it increases the risk of workplace violence due to increased wait times, unmet patient needs, and increased stress and moral distress of health care staff. In NNU’s surveys and focus groups, nurses regularly noted the role that short staffing plays in increasing the risk of workplace violence.

Employers fail to implement proven measures to prevent workplace violence

Scientific research has documented that unit-specific workplace violence prevention plans created with employee input, safe staffing, and other engineering and administrative controls, work to reduce workplace violence. But NNU’s analysis of the survey results found that many health care employers continue to fail to implement these essential protections:

  • Only 62.8 percent of nurses reported that their employer provides training on workplace violence prevention. While training by itself is insufficient, it is an essential element of an effective workplace violence prevention plan.
  • To effectively identify and correct workplace violence hazards, employers must have a method to track and investigate violent incidents. However, only about 1 in 3 nurses (31.7 percent) reported that their employer provides a clear way to report incidents.
  • Nurses shared in NNU’s survey and focus groups that they often do not report workplace violence incidents due to unclear reporting mechanisms, lack of action from the employer, fear of employer retaliation, and perspectives that violence is part of the job.

NNU strongly supports a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard. 

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2663) is aimed at protecting nurses, other health care workers, and their patients from workplace violence. These federal bills would mandate that federal OSHA create a standard that would require health care and social service employers to create, implement, and maintain effective workplace violence prevention plans. Under S. 1176/H.R. 2663, such a standard would include all the elements that effectively protect nurses and other health care workers.

To read the full report, including statistics and sources, go here.

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates include California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.