Healthcare violence

Image: © Veer Incorporated

There is so much violence in the world, and it can trickle down to anyone. I’m a nurse and I work in an emergency room, and I’ve been assaulted more than once by the very patient I’m taking care of.

One of my experiences with workplace violence was in July 2009. As I was taking report from the EMS, the patient she was reporting on was loud, swearing and just obnoxious. The patient had been found sprawled out on the sidewalk, unable to get up. She smelled of alcohol.

I said thank you to the EMS and kept the patient in front of the nurses’ station, just to keep an eye on her. She was screaming, “I want to leave now!” The physician and I spoke to her and tried to see if she could walk. She tried, but failed. She was quiet for a short time, so I put in an IV and obtained some blood. I wondered what her alcohol level was.

While I was doing the IV, the patient felt the need to slap me on the hand. I told her that was wrong and not to do it again. “I’m sorry,” she said. I continued my work with her and others, but continued to watch her for fear she would get up and land on the floor. Having a patient fall is a nurse’s nightmare!

Then it was time to have the physician really give her a good examination, so I took her off to a private area to get her undressed. Security was present and assisted me with the stretcher. Once in the room, I asked her to take off her shirt, and security left the room so she would have privacy. Within a second, she gave me a backhander that almost brought tears to my eyes. My lip and part of my face started to swell. With a smile on her face, she stated again, “I’m sorry.”

According to the Department of Labor, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “recently workplace violence has gained recognition as a distinct category of violent crime that requires specific responses from employers, law enforcement and the community.”

Most of us in the emergency room have been assaulted. I don’t believe it’s “our job” to be assaulted. In fact, I’m upset that some of our patients, their families and their friends behave as though it’s okay to assault a healthcare worker. As a result of past and more recent assaults, two other nurses and I have started a program called Stop Healthcare Violence.

Stop Healthcare Violence was originally founded in 2009 by three healthcare professionals who had worked in inpatient and outpatient settings for many years. They accept inquiries for speaking engagements, presentations and consultations. If you are interested in having the organization speak to you, your group or at your venue, please contact them by email:


Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson, RN, BSN, MPH, is on the workplace violence task force committees of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Caritas Carney Hospital. She has worked in outpatient and inpatient settings. Through her experiences witnessing and being a target of workplace violence, she has helped found the company

Post a Comment

You must or register to post a comment.

7 Responses to Healthcare violence

  1. Sheila, so sorry to hear about this experience. It saddens me to think we have to ‘prepare’ for these instances on a daily basis.
    Thanks for the information!

  2. Jamie

    Sheila, it is so disturbing that you and your colleagues have suffered from violence in the workplace. It’s wonderful that you and your 2 colleagues have formed the organization (Stop Healthcare Violence) to try to bring more awareness to this critical issue.

  3. Kathy

    I’m so sorry to hear that you and all healthcare workers have to deal with such an issue, that is not your JOB and you shouldn’t have to have that always on your mind, I have seen your website and it is very nice, Keep up the great work.

  4. I congradulate you, Sheryl and Liz for the outstanding job you are all doing.

    Your organization will make a hugh impact with making it aware of the violence that health care givers have to endure.

    Wish you all much success and let me know what I can do to help.

    Jeanne White

  5. nichole

    grammy this is sooo!im sorry for your experience and i love you very much!!

    <3 Love, Nichole <3


  6. Ginger

    Here is Arizona a licensed professional can press charges against a patient that assaults them. I am a psych nurse, and being assaulted is something we are always leary of. All it takes is a second, you can be reading a BP and bam someone hits you. The drunk patient you had should have been checked for injuries (especially head) then shipped off to the drunk tank to sleep it off. Also, sometimes security needs to stay in the room for the nurse or doctors safety.

  7. We at our hospital are really working together. We are using the team approach! WE have had team meetings every month,,, NUrses,risk management,administration,security,Police ,Human resourses and MNA (Mass.Nurses union) Working together has really helped. WE make out incident reports when we get verbally or physically assaulted. This way administration knows what is really happening. If we get injured we make out injury reports and if needed ,we take time off. We are also making out police reports and started going to court.We are seeing a difference. Keep up the good work Arizona