Workplace Violence and Perceptions of Safety Among Emergency Department Staff Members: Experiences, Expectations, Tolerance, Reporting, and Recommendations

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Workplace violence (WPV) is a widely recognized problem in emergency departments (EDs). The majority of WPV studies do not include nonclinical staff and do not address expectations of violence, tolerance to violence, or perceptions of safety. Among a multidisciplinary sample of ED staff members, specific study aims were to (a) describe exposure to WPV; (b) describe perceptions of safety, tolerance to violence, and expectation of violence; (c) describe reporting behaviors and perceived barriers to reporting violence; (d) examine relationships between demographic variables, experiences of violence, tolerance to violence, perceptions of safety, and reporting behaviors; and (e) identify perceptions of viable interventions to improve workplace safety. A cross-sectional design was used to survey ED staff members in a Level 1 Shock Trauma center. Eleven disciplines were represented in 147 completed surveys; 88% of respondents reported exposure to WPV in the previous 6 months. Members of every discipline reported exposure to WPV; 98% of the sample felt safe at work and 64% felt violence was an expected part of the job. Most violence was not reported, primarily because “nobody was hurt.” Emergency department staff members expected and experienced violence; nevertheless, there was a widespread perception of safety. Perceptions of safety and reasons for not reporting did not mirror previous findings. The WPV exposure is not isolated to clinical staff members and occurs even when prevention strategies are in place. The definition of WPV and the individual's interpretation of the event might preclude reporting.

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