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Nurses in emergency departments feel less safe

A study has revealed how emergency department (ED) staff across all roles experienced verbal abuse from patients

A study has revealed how emergency department (ED) staff across all roles experienced verbal abuse from patients, but nurses were more likely to have been physically assaulted and were less likely to feel safe.


A visible presence of security officers was found to be a factor in ED staff feeling safe. Picture: Alamy

The study considered four factors: the rate of verbal abuse and physical assaults experienced by ED staff; perceptions of safety; attitudes towards security officers; and formal reporting of incidents.

Carried out in Queensland, Australia, the survey questioned 330 ED workers at four public hospitals in one metropolitan health service district and included 179 nurses, as well as medical, administration, allied health and operational staff.

Overall reporting of occupational violence across all roles was low. But, of those surveyed, nurses were better than other staff at reporting abusive and physical assaults.

The visible presence and quick response of security officers to incidents in the ED meant staff were more likely to feel safe there than in other areas.

The survey’s results suggest there is a case for having designated security officers in an ED.


Partridge B, Affleck J et al (2017) Verbal abuse and physical assault in the emergency department: rates of violence, perceptions of safety, and attitudes towards security. Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal. doi: 10.1016/j.aenj.2017.05.001

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