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The epidemic of violence against healthcare workers
  1. D M Gates
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D M Gates
 College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, 212 Procter Hall ML 0038, 3110 Vine Street, Cincinnati 45221-0038, USA; donna.gatesuc.edu

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No longer silent

Staggering rates of verbal and physical violence are documented in the study by Gerberich and colleagues,1 published in the June issue of OEM, and yet most nurses and other healthcare workers state that the problem highlighted by this research is not new. Although many healthcare workers believe that workplace violence is increasing, there is a paucity of existing evidence to support these claims due to low reporting rates. Gerberich and colleaguess’ 15% report rate for physical assaults against nurses supports other studies that also found low rates.2,3 Compared to physical assaults, non-physical violence is documented even less, although researches such as Gerberich et al found that the negative consequences associated with such violence are substantial. When healthcare workers are asked why they don’t report violence they most commonly state that the incident is not associated with injury or lost work, reporting is too time consuming, reporting lacks supervisory support, and reporting won’t make any difference. Most incredible, nurses indicate that violence is to be expected. In the Gerberich et al study, 44% of nurses do not report physical violence because it is just “part of the job”. An additional alarming finding from this study is that only 27% of the nurses perceive violence to be a problem in their workplace, even though 13% experienced physical assaults and 38% experienced non-physical violence during the previous year. Unfortunately, these findings suggest that violence may not be identified as a problem until there is a critical incident with casualties.

So what are the reasons …

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