Protect Yourself and Your Colleagues From the Dark Side of Caring

July 30, 2019

By Susan D. Scott, PhD, RN, CPPS, FAAN, and Courtney S. Miller, MSN, RN

Nursing requires emotional energy and hard work to provide care to those we serve. However, there’s a dark side to the profession: workplace violence, or the exchanges perceived to be offensive or intimidating that can progress as far as homicide.  

What the Research Tells Us 

In 1999, hospitals reported 2,637 nonfatal assaults on workers (8.3 assaults per 10,000 staff). Seventy-four percent of violent events occurred in healthcare and social service settings. Although any healthcare employee can experience workplace violence, nursing staff with direct patient or family contact are at higher risk for involvement. In this era of workplace violence, healthcare institutions must consider not only the physical safety factors of their workforce but the psychological ramifications as well.

How to Practice 

The forYOU Team at MU Health Care, an academic healthcare system in Columbia, MO, is designed to address the psychological factors that clinicians experience because of involvement in unanticipated clinical events. In the past, healthcare workers suffered silently as second victims. Most clinicians described having an extreme reaction that resulted in wide-ranging symptoms.  

The program led to a significant increase in peer support encounters relating to workplace violence. Those segued into formal conversations about additional ways the institution can support staff after a violent encounter. 

Although institutional support teams are becoming more commonplace, a holistic approach is essential. And as clinicians, we must also recognize symptoms of second victimization in ourselves and make strides toward recovery. 

See the sidebar for ways to protect and support yourself and others. For more information on workplace violence, see the article Here’s How You Can Confront Workplace Violence in a Healthcare Setting.


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