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Workplace violence in different settings and among various health professionals in an Italian general hospital: a cross-sectional study

Authors Ferri P, Silvestri M, Artoni C, Di Lorenzo R

Received 13 June 2016

Accepted for publication 20 July 2016

Published 23 September 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 263—275

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S114870

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Paola Ferri,1 Monica Silvestri,1 Cecilia Artoni,2 Rosaria Di Lorenzo3

1Department of Diagnostic, Clinical and Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing, 2School of Psychiatry, University of Modena and Reggio, 3Department of Mental Health, Service of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment, Modena, Italy


Background: Workplace violence (WPV) against health professionals is a global problem with an increasing incidence. The aims of this study were as follows: 1) to examine the frequency and characteristics of WPV in different settings and professionals of a general hospital and 2) to identify the clinical and organizational factors related to this phenomenon.
Methods: The study was cross-sectional. In a 1-month period, we administered the “Violent Incident Form” to 745 professionals (physicians, head nurses, nurses, nursing assistants), who worked in 15 wards of a general hospital in northern Italy.
Results: With a response rate of 56%, 45% of professionals reported WPV. The most frequently assaulted were nurses (67%), followed by nursing assistants (18%) and physicians (12%). The first two categories were correlated, in a statistically significant way, with the risk of WPV (P=0.005, P=0.004, multiple logistic regression). The violent incidents more frequently occurred in psychiatry department (86%), emergency department (71%), and in geriatric wards (57%). The assailants more frequently were males whereas assaulted professionals more often were females. Men committed physical violence more frequently than women, in a statistically significant way (P=0.034, chi-squared test). Verbal violence (51%) was often committed by people in a lucid and normal state of consciousness; physical violence (49%) was most often perpetrated by assailants affected by dementia, mental retardation, drug and substance abuse, or other psychiatric disorders. The variables positively related to WPV were “calling for help during the attack” and “physical injuries suffered in violent attack” (P=0.02, P=0.03, multiple logistic regression).
Conclusion: This study suggests that violence is a significant phenomenon and that all health workers, especially nurses, are at risk of suffering aggressive assaults. WPV presented specific characteristics related to the health care settings, where the aggression occurred. Prevention programs tailored to the different care needs are necessary to promote professional awareness for violence risk.

Keywords: workplace violence, health professionals, nurses, physicians, patient, general hospital, aggression

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