Seeing violence in the workplace

Exploring the effects witnessing violence in the workplace can have on your role.
Witnessing violence illustration

If you are a mental health nurse, statistics suggest you have probably been involved in de-escalating or dealing with a violent or aggressive act by a patient. And you’ve probably witnessed violence towards others as well.

No one should suggest that violence is ‘part of the job,’ but if you work with acutely ill people, from time to time it can be part of the landscape in which you work.

David Jeffrey’s article (doi:10.7748/mhp.2016.e1100) explores the effect that witnessing violence can have on mental health staff.

One of his interesting findings is that nurses ‘feel responsible’ when others are assaulted at work, even if they could not have prevented the incident from happening – and these feelings are especially prevalent for the nurse in charge of the shift.

Successes rely on trust

The idea that one person can be all-seeing is enticing, but the reality of nursing work is that all members of the team have a role to play, and that the success of the team relies on trust.

No one person can prevent incidents from occurring, and sometimes untoward events happen, despite all the staff doing the right thing.

The important message to take away from Mr Jeffrey’s article is about what happens next, after the event has ended and the situation has returned to normal.

What makes a difference to staff well-being are proper debriefing meetings and ongoing support.

Get that right and team members will be stronger, more cohesive and more able to cope with the challenges they face at work.