Workplace Violence in Healthcare: A Single-Center Study on Causes, Consequences and Prevention Strategies

Helena Sofia Antão, Ema Sacadura-Leite, Maria João Manzano, Sónia Pinote, Rui Relvas, Florentino Serranheira, António Sousa-Uva

Abstract


Introduction: Workplace violence is one of the main risk factors in the professional world. Healthcare workers are at higher risk when compared to other sectors. Our study aimed to characterize physical and verbal violence in a public hospital and to define occupational health prevention and surveillance strategies.
Material and Methods: Single center observational cross-sectional study, carried amongst healthcare workers in a public hospital in Lisbon. A qualitative survey was carried out through six in-depth interviews. A quantitative survey was carried through questionnaires delivered to 32 workers. A significance level of 5% was accepted in the assessment of statistical differences. The Mann-Whitney test and the Fisher’s exact test were used to calculate p values.
Results: The main results are: (1) 41 violence incidents were reported in the quantitative phase; (2) 5/21 [23.81%] victims notified the incident to the occupational health department; (3) 18/21 [85.71%] victims reported a permanent state of hypervigilance; (4) 22/28 [78.57%] participants self-reported poor or no familiarity with internal reporting procedures; (5) 24/28 [85.71%] participants believed it is possible to minimize workplace violence.
Discussion: Workplace violence is favored by unrestricted access to working areas, absence of security guards and police officers or scarce intervention. The low notification rate contributes to organizational lack of action. The state of hypervigilance reported in our study reflects the negative effects of threatening occupational stressors on mental health.
Conclusion: Our results show that workplace violence is a relevant risk factor that significantly impacts workers’ health in a noxious manner, deserving a tailored occupational health approach whose priority areas and strategies have been determined.


Keywords


Healthcare Workers; Occupational Hazard; Occupational Health; Prevention; Workplace Violence

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