Workplace Violence Against Health Care Workers On The Rise

The beginning of June marks the annual Hospitals Against Violence initiative focused on identifying strategies to combat workplace and community violence.


The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) released a series of new videos outlining first-person accounts of workplace violence against health care workers, particularly nurses helping their patients.

The beginning of June marks the annual Hospitals Against Violence initiative focused on identifying strategies to combat workplace and community violence.

In recognition of that, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) is releasing a
series of videos featuring the stories of hospital nurses from Central Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia who have firsthand experience with workplace violence in clinical settings. The raw, emotional stories shared in these videos are not isolated incidents. The sad reality is that hospital team members and other health care professionals face a heightened risk of workplace violence greater than workers in other industries. The videos are intended to educate the public about the growing prevalence of workplace violence in health care settings, appropriate behavior in clinical settings, and how the disruption of workplace violence impacts other patients’ ability to access timely care.

June is also National Gun Violence Awareness Month and here in Virginia hospitals are leading efforts to address community violence and serve patients impacted by it through the Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) Collaborative, a VHHA Foundation-supported initiative now in its fifth year in the Commonwealth. This state and federally funded program facilitated by the Foundation is a first-of-its-kind statewide approach to the implementation of these evidence-based programs, which provide support to survivors of serious violence and their families during and after hospitalization. Since 2019, HVIP programs operating at hospitals around Virginia have served nearly 5,200 patients impacted by community and intimate partner violence. The re-injury rate among those patients is just 2 percent, compared to a national re-injury rate of 40 percent for people impacted by community violence. These impressive results are helping improve lives and save money with more than $38 million in estimated health care costs avoided as a result of HVIP work.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has praised HVIPs as one piece of a broader effort to address community violence: “I’ve always said that there isn’t a one-size fits all solution to combatting violent crime. Real, sustainable results will come from increased communication between law enforcement, government officials, first responders, and community organizations. Virginia’s Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs are a critical component of our Operation Ceasefire strategy to reduce violent crime in our communities.”

The workplace violence video campaign evolved from the work of the VHHA Chief Nursing
Officer/Nurse Leader Forum to establish acceptable behavioral expectations for patients and families in clinical settings and to support bedside de-escalation training protocols for situations when patients or families lash out.

Situations involving unruly, disruptive, and violent patients or family members have become all too common in health care settings. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that of the nearly 21,000 private sector workers who “experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2019,” 70 percent worked in the health care and social assistance sector. BLS data also shows that the incidence rate of violence against health care workers has been on the rise since 2011. And those numbers may not reflect the true scope of the issue, with the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) noting that while health care “accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined . . . many more assaults or threats go unreported.”