One in four U.S. nurses reported being assaulted during the past year—two every hour—and it is happening in oncology settings, too, authors wrote in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing

However, oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals can take steps to control their personal safety and mitigate situations for workplace violence. The authors shared 10 expert tips that oncology nurses can implement immediately: 

  • Learn to recognize all warning signs of escalating behavior before entering an unsafe environment. 
  • Consider all aspects of communication when interacting with others, including proximity, body language, and paraverbal communication (e.g., word choice, tone, pitch, cadence). 
  • Understand that people in distress cannot communicate as they typically would. Allow more time for an individual in distress to process what you are telling them. 
  • Slow down and assess the environment before interacting with an aggressive or distressed individual. Use an interprofessional team approach to handle critical situations. 
  • Identify what the individual wants and what options are available to offer them. 
  • Use empathy and active listening to help ensure others feel valued and supported. 
  • Be flexible and willing to negotiate when appropriate. 
  • Know yourself and when to tap out before you escalate and become part of the problem. 
  • Attend to escalating individuals’ basic physiologic needs before and after the event. 
  • Ask for help because it is difficult to solve complex emotional events independently. 

“Oncology nurses can take individual actions to improve the safety of their workplace environment,” the authors concluded. “This effort can include being determined not to accept workplace violence as a regular part of the job, reporting when they have experienced any form of workplace violence, and advocating for policies that promote healthcare safety.” 

Learn more about workplace violence on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 230: Violence in Health Care or in ONS Voice’s feature and perspective articles.