Increasing Workplace Violence and Raises: The Future of Nursing

Recent data suggests that workplace violence and harassment is on the rise for nurses, but most nurses would pick the same career again and again.

Being a nurse can be a challenging and dangerous job, and nurses often face violence and aggression from patients, visitors, and even fellow health care professionals. But, while violence and harassment on the job are on the rise, nurses are still not dissuaded from the profession.

The latest, annual “Nursing Trends and Salary Survey” from American Nurse Today recently reported these interesting findings after gathering data from 5,262 RNs and NPs about their compensation, professional challenges and more.

Verbal and Physical Harassment

As it turns out, harassment against nurses—verbal or physical—is common for nurses on the job. The report found that 59 percent of respondents experienced verbal assault by a patient within the last two years, and 43 percent from a visitor.

Employers do not seem to be addressing these situations appropriately, either. About half of those who’d been harassed were unsatisfied with their employer’s response to the incident, often citing that healthcare organizations prioritize patient satisfaction over employee safety.

Physical violence against nurses occurs less frequently against nurses, but it seems to be on the rise—and it still exists. Some 23 percent of respondents reported experiencing physical assault by a patient, 20 percent last year. Less than half of those who reported felt satisfied with how the incident was handled by employers.

Deescalation training can be particularly helpful in mitigating conflict. The report did show that 76 percent of respondents took this training, and most found it helpful.

Nurse Bullying is a topic of concern too, as harassment and aggression don’t always come from patients or visitors. In 2018 and 2019 respectively, 36 and 35 percent of respondents said a fellow healthcare provider had verbally assaulted them. Even more nurses, 46 percent, say they witnessed bullying.

And if that isn’t bad enough, nurses are often sexually harassed, too. Roughly 9 percent of this year’s respondents said they experienced sexual harassment on the job, compared to 10.5 percent last year. And they aren’t reporting it either—70 percent of those did not report the incident, mostly for fear of termination. One respondent wrote, “I reported a physician for sexual harassment, and I was terminated after 21 years.”

So not only is sexual harassment—alongside verbal and physical harassment—affecting nurses, but incidents are not being addressed with respect. And this is a potential trend in the health care profession, suggests one research study.

Recent research in the Journal of Women’s Health found much higher rates of sexual harassment among health professionals, men and women. It found that 82.5 percent of women and 65.1 percent of men working at an academic medical center had reported at least one incident of sexual harassment by staff, students, and faculty during the previous year. Even patients are sexually harassing: 64.4 percent of women and 44.1 percent of men who worked with patients reported experiencing sexual harassment from patients or their families within the last year.

Not surprisingly, researchers found an association between sexual harassment and mental health, job satisfaction, and sense of safety at work.

Compensation

While workplace violence and harassment persist for healthcare workers, salary and benefits for nurses are steadily improving. Nurses are more in-demand than ever, and the rate of salary increases among this year’s respondents reflects this: 65 percent of managers and 60 percent of clinical nurses said they’d received a raise within the past 12 months. However, overall satisfaction could be improved, as only 60 percent of nurses reported being satisfied with their pay.

Benefits are pretty good for nurses across the board, too. Most respondents said their job provides benefits, with 86 percent receiving sick and vacation time, 82 percent with health insurance, 77 percent with dental and 76 percent earning retirement contributions. Less than 60 percent receive bonuses, disability insurance, professional liability insurance, and reimbursement for tuition and certification, and only five percent received no benefits at all.

Job Satisfaction

Nurses want to continue being nurses, but there’s still some unrest. The survey showed that more than three-quarters of respondents reported currently looking for a new job or planning to leave within the next three months. However, it’s interesting to note that 42 percent of respondents said they planned to stay with their current employer for 5 years or more. Only 10 percent of respondents said they plan to retire within two years.

As was said, though—nurses are needed more than ever. Nurse managers said they have been struggling with hiring, and more than half of respondents (54 percent) said they’d seen an increase in job openings in the past year, up from 52 percent in 2018. This year, 56 percent said turnover has gotten worse and 64 percent said recruiting nurses is more difficult.

Respondents reported have generally positive relationships at work, contributing to overall job satisfaction. Nine out of 10 nurse managers said they’re satisfied with their relationships with peers (but less satisfied with support from management).

As for clinical nurses, a similar nine out of 10 are satisfied with relationships with peers, but fewer are satisfied with support from immediate supervisors and management. Eight out of 10 are satisfied with the job but less satisfied with their pay, according to one article on the study.

While the data from this survey does not conclude overarching truths about nursing trends, it does provide valuable insight into workplace safety and health for health care professionals. While nurses are overall pretty satisfied with their jobs and happy with their employers, improvement could be had in regards to verbal and physical harassment, sexual misconduct, and management of these incidents.

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