Oncology nurses are particularly vulnerable to the increasing violent incidents in the healthcare workplace, and it might be because of their specialty. “Oncology settings possess baseline patient and family stressors that may have been more pronounced during the pandemic,” researchers reported in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, such as social isolation, inadequate resources, and health misinformation, among others.

Although nurses can follow de-escalation strategies to protect themselves, colleagues, and patients in a violent situation, truly addressing the issue requires an organizational approach. The authors advocated for healthcare institutions to implement strong organizational policies that include “fostering a workplace culture that encourages nurse reporting of [workplace violence], providing resources for victims, and investing in programs that promote practical skills and resources for workplace safety and patient de-escalation.” Specifically, they identified a need for:

  • Strong organizational culture
    • Empower employees to report incidents.
    • Involve employees in developing policies.
    • Hold people accountable for undesirable behavior.
    • Implement zero-tolerance policies.
    • Provide resources for victims.
  • Prevention
    • Develop engineering controls.
    • Create visitor management and threat assessment programs.
    • Implement and regularly update a robust workplace violence policy that is accessible to employees.
    • Communicate policies to staff, patients, and visitors.
  • Training and education
    • Provide regular staff training on warning signs, de-escalation, and safety.
    • Implement new hire safety training.
  • Reporting, documenting, and response
    • Create a simple, efficient, and quick reporting process.
    • Deploy an immediate response team to de-escalate incidents.
    • Provide follow-up safety plans after incidents.

“Institutions that have made these investments have seen improved nurse confidence and skills for working with challenging patients and reduced [workplace violence] incidents,” the authors concluded.

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.