Reader reaction: Leaders’ role in stopping workplace violence

Author(s): Claudia Spencer, RN

Dear Editor,

After reading the article “Leaders’ Role in Stopping Workplace Violence” in the September 2020 issue, I am in agreeance with the author for highlighting the need for a safer working environment and felt inclined to respond because the topic of workplace violence resonates with me due to my personal experiences working as a mental health nurse and being assaulted multiple times while on duty. Many people choose nursing as a career due to personal rewards and the ability to use compassionate care to make a difference in others’ lives. However, there is a darker side to the job that has plagued nurses for many years. Workplace violence has become a systemic issue, and leaders should no longer turn a blind eye but take a stand to address this ongoing crisis to keep nurses safe. As stated in the article, the key to creating a culturally safe environment is for leaders to develop policies and programs that prevent violence, thoroughly investigate incidents, and provide ongoing therapeutic support to victims (Demming and O’Neil, 2020).

For decades, violence in the workplace has been looked at as part of the job, but no one, including nurses, should work in fear or discomfort. During an interview, Stephens (2019) expressed that,”a physician heard a nurse being verbally abused by a patient. She walked up to the nurse, put her hand on her shoulder, and asked her if she was okay. The
nurse shrugged it off and said that it happens all the time”.

Nurses are most at risk for abuse because they work closely with patients, provide direct care, and in most cases, are the first person the patients encounter. However, to efficiently and effectively provide safe and therapeutic care, nurses need to feel safe in the workplace and recognize that violence is unacceptable.

In the article, 5,000 nurses were surveyed, and the results were disconcerting. It states that “one in four nurses were physically assaulted by patients, and 59% expressed that they have been verbally assaulted” (Demming and O’Neil, 2020). As a nurse, I agree with patient-centered care, and I am deeply committed to my duties. However, I am afraid that I have to disagree with keeping silent and accepting the injustice we endure.

To reiterate, leadership should be more attentive to this area of nursing by focusing on reducing and preventing workplace violence. The implementation of the following comprehensive guide, which entails “the development of a workplace violence program, a workplace violence committee, concise reporting mechanisms, thorough investigation and ongoing support to victims,” will indeed assist healthcare institutions and leaders to adopt a zero-tolerance policy and to create a culturally safe environment.

In conclusion, I find this article very enlightening and applaud the author to highlight workplace violence’s negative impact on nurses and identify the different strategies leaders can use to address this issue. There is no doubt that many nurses are satisfied with their career but cannot effectively perform when they fear the patients. We are well aware that this issue will not end overnight, but I believe that implementing effective violence prevention programs and ongoing support from leaders will allow nurses to have a voice and an enhanced safety perception, leading to optimal patient care.

Sincerely,
Claudia Spencer, RN
Medgar Ever College, School of Nursing
Brooklyn, NY

References

Demming, J. M., & O’Neill, L. (2019). Leaders’ role in stopping workplace violence. American Nurse Journal, 15(9), 66-68. Retrieved October 15, 2019, from:
https://www.myamericannurse.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/an9-Workplace-violence.pdf

Stephens, W. (2019, May 12). Violence Against Healthcare Workers: A Rising Epidemic.
Retrieved October 15, 2020, from:
https://www.ajmc.com/view/violence-against-healthcare-workers-a-rising-epidemic

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