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, nearly half (47 percent) report having been physically assaulted while at work, with 51 percent saying that patients also have been physically harmed. The vast majority (80 percent) of emergency physicians say violence in the emergency department harms patient care.
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 which was passed by the House of Representatives in April of 2021 and introduced in the Senate in May of 2022. This bill will help strengthen workplace safety standards and enhance incident prevention to allow health care workers to focus on their mission to care for patients without worrying for their own safety.
We also support the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in June of 2022. This bipartisan bill would help curb violence in the emergency department, and criminalize assault or intimidation against health workers.
ACEP is working with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to seek input from emergency physicians to create federal workplace standards and protections for emergency departments.
We also offer tools and resources for emergency care teams placed in potentially dangerous situations, including de-escalation techniques and emergency department design considerations.