Workplace violence

Psychiatric hospital workers often encounter verbal, physical assault: study

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Los Angeles – Physical and verbal assault are a serious threat to psychiatric hospital workers, and hospital administrators need to focus on factors that lead to conflict and how staff responds to it, according to new study from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Researchers surveyed nearly 350 workers at a large psychiatric hospital and found that nearly all participants said they experienced verbal conflict with patients, and 70 percent said they were assaulted within the last year. Additionally, 92 percent of workers reported experiencing verbal conflict with other workers.

Twelve percent of participants were injured seriously enough to miss work. Psychiatric technicians and nurses were more likely than clinical care and supervisors to report being physically assaulted by patients.

The study also found that staff who had more conflict with patients had more conflict with co-workers.

Workers who had high “stress reactivity” – which includes feeling upset or irritated – experienced fewer patient assaults, possibly because sensitivity led them to avoid assaults and they may “back off” and lower their exposure, according to the study.

The study was published Dec. 28 in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.