Workplace Violence Has Serious Consequences for Health Care Professionals

October 10, 2014
Aimee Simone, Associate Editor

Exposure to violence at work has serious consequences for health care professionals.

Health care professionals exposed to violence at work often suffer serious consequences that can negatively impact patient care, the results of a recent study indicate.

The study, published in the September-October 2014 issue of Aggression and Violent Behavior, reviewed previous studies to analyze the consequences of witnessing or enduring workplace violence in the health care sector. A total of 68 studies were analyzed based on 12 criteria recommended for systematic reviews.

The review identified 7 types of consequences that can result from experiencing violence at work: physical, psychological, social, financial, and emotional consequences, as well as those that affect functioning at work and relationships with patients and the quality of care provided. Psychological, emotional, and work function consequences were the most frequent consequences of exposure to violence in the workplace.

Victims of violence who experienced psychological consequences suffered posttraumatic stress 5% to 32% of the time, in addition to increased vigilance, irritability, and sleep disorders. Some studies also noted symptoms of depression, though they occurred among <20% of employees in most cases.

A total of 25 studies reported at least 1 emotional consequence, and anger, fear, sadness, and disgust were the most frequent in this category. Consequences affecting work performance were also significant. Based on the results of 12 studies, between 13% and 60% of victims considered leaving their jobs after experiencing violence.

Additionally, 10 studies reported effects on the quality of care delivered to patients and found that victims of violence developed a sense of fear toward patients, lost pleasure in working with patients, and spent less time with patients.

"These results demonstrate that the consequences of workplace violence are not only profound, but also multiple," said study author Nathalie Lanctôt in a press release.

However, additional research is needed to better understand the direct and indirect impact of workplace violence, especially among health care professionals.

“This sector is particularly prone to violence, since health personnel are 16 times more likely to be victims of or witnesses to acts of violence, compared to other public service personnel," said study author Stéphane Guay in the press release.