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Violence in the ER

Violence in the emergency department is a serious and growing concern, causing significant stress to staff and patients who seek emergency care.

According to a poll of emergency physicians, more than eight in ten emergency physicians believe the rate of violence experienced in emergency departments has increased with 45% saying it has greatly increased over the past five years.

When violence occurs in an emergency department, patients can be injured or traumatized to the point of leaving without being seen.  It also can increase wait times and distract emergency staff from focusing on other patients who urgently require a physician's assistance. Beyond the immediate physical impacts, the risk of violence increases the difficulty of recruiting and retaining qualified health care professionals and contributes to greater levels of physician burnout.

Most importantly, patients with medical emergencies deserve high-quality care in a place free of physical dangers from other patients or individuals, and care from staff that is not distracted by individuals with behavioral or substance-induced violent behavior.

That's why the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) have joined forces on, No Silence on ED Violence, a joint campaign to stop these attacks and protect emergency department professionals and patients. 

There are many factors contributing to the increase in emergency department and hospital violence, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Employers and hospitals should develop workplace violence prevention and response procedures that address the needs of their particular facilities, staff, contractors, and communities, as those needs, and resources may vary significantly.

We need legislation to push toward effective violence prevention strategies, and emergency physicians play an integral role in their development. 

Emergency physicians support the "Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act," in the Senate, which takes critical steps to address ED violence by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue enforceable standards to ensure health care and social services workplaces implement violence prevention, tracking, and response systems. It previously passed the House of Representatives twice in strong bipartisan votes.

We also support the "Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act," which establishes federal legal penalties for individuals who knowingly and intentionally assault or intimidate health care workers and provides grants to help hospitals and medical facilities establish and improve workplace safety, security, and violence prevention efforts.

ACEP also offers tools and resources for emergency care teams placed in potentially dangerous situations, including de-escalation techniques and emergency department design considerations.

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