Violence in the ER

According to a recent 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.

There are many factors contributing to the increase in ED 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.

Emergency physicians support H.R. 1309, “The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act,” and believe they can and should serve an integral role in developing effective violence prevention strategies. 

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

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