Impact and Prevalence of Physical and Verbal Violence Toward Healthcare Workers

Lisa J. Rosenthal*, Ashley Byerly, Adrienne D. Taylor, Zoran Martinovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background: Threatening and assaultive behaviors against healthcare workers are a growing national concern.1,2,3 Objective: To assess the incidence and impact of aggression against healthcare workers, a safety and quality improvement project was initiated in an academic, tertiary care, urban hospital. Methods: Through the Northwestern Academy of Quality and Safety Initiatives program, an invitation to complete an online survey was sent to healthcare workers. The survey inquired about prevalence, location, and type of experience of physical or verbal abuse by patients or families. Other goals were: 1) worker knowledge and use of reporting systems, 2) effect on healthcare worker engagement, and 3) report of posttraumatic symptoms. Results: 34.4% of healthcare workers reported any incident of verbal or physical violence in the preceeding 12 months, with 13.5% reporting physical assault. Of those with any incident of physical or verbal violence, 60.2% endorsed at least one posttraumatic symptom, 9.4% missed work, and 30.1% had thoughts about leaving their job or career. The reported impact was the same for physical or verbal incidents. Discussion: Physical and verbal abuse of healthcare workers is prevalent and has a significant impact on employee engagement and posttraumatic spectrum symptoms. These results are based on a cross-sectional survey at one institution and may have a significant selection and response bias. Conclusion: Assessment of both verbal and physical aggression against healthcare workers should be standard. Front-line consulting psychiatrists and psychiatric programs for employee wellness could assess and manage this impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-590
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • healthcare worker wellness
  • nursing
  • physician engagement
  • posttraumatic stress
  • security
  • workplace violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


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