Emergency Department Violence Fact Sheet

From the American College of Emergency Physicians:

Main Points

  • Protecting emergency patients and staff from violent acts is fundamental to ensuring quality patient care.
  • More than 75 percent of emergency physicians experienced at least one violent workplace incident in a year.
  • ACEP encourages all states to enact legislation that establishes maximum categories for offenses and criminal penalties against individuals who commit violence against health care workers.

What is the magnitude of the problem and why should we care?

  • The majority of assaults on health care workers were by patients or visitors.  Pushing/grabbing and yelling/shouting are the most prevalent types of violence. Eighty percent of incidents occurred in patient rooms.
  • More than 70 percent of emergency nurses reported physical or verbal assault by emergency patients or visitors (2013). The violence happened most frequently while the nurses were triaging patients, restraining or subduing patients or performing invasive procedures. Most of the violence occurred at night between 11pm and 7am.

There is significant stress to emergency department staff, and to medical patients who seek treatment in the emergency care system, if the emergency department is a site of frequent violence. This risk also increases the difficulty of recruiting and retaining highly qualified personnel. Patients with medical emergencies deserve a place of care that is free of physical dangers from other patients, and care from staff that is not distracted by individuals with behavioral or substance-induced violent behavior.

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