Nurse with arms above head and ambulance in the background; male nurse or doctor with a mask on; nurse leaning against window with hand on her head; nurse talking to patient lying on bed.

New research from the NH Healthcare Violence Prevention Group (NHHVP) puts a spotlight on the incidence and consequences of violent events within New Hampshire's hospitals. Over 200 staff from six New Hampshire emergency departments responded to the survey conducted during the summer of 2022, sharing multiple insights into not only the challenges but potential solutions as well.

Just a few of the research highlights:

  • Three-quarters of respondents experienced some form of violence (verbal aggression, physical aggression, sexual aggression, harassment, or intimidation) during a six-month period. Over two-thirds of this group experienced one or more of these forms of violence multiple times per week. Just three examples from 96 stories shared . . .
    • "Get yelled at, cursed at, and threatened all the time while at work. Patients try to hit staff while staff administer medications, as well while under the influence of drugs and alcohol."
    • "I've had a patient's husband physically threaten me while [treating] his wife. I've had countless patients try to punch or otherwise hit me."
    • "It's not always just one event that causes harm. Some weeks the verbal and physical aggression just . . . stacks up. It's hard to pinpoint any one that definitively causes direct harm, but it sucks. Berated by unhappy patients in triage about how bad of a job we're doing, being threatened with lawsuits, being threatened by mental health patients. All these things add up. It makes me feel like the job I do is never good enough. Makes me not want to be a nurse."
  • Over one in three of those impacted by violence considered leaving their job or their profession as a result of the incident.
  • Only half of those impacted reported the incident, with two-thirds indicating that the lack of reporting was because they didn't think anything would change.

Despite the many challenges, the research also documented a range of solutions, including physical updates to facilities, personnel updates, and the improvement of hospital and state policies around the preparation, reporting, and follow-up of violent events.

Findings from the research, funded by the Endowment for Health and the NH Occupational Health Surveillance Program, are available here

The work comes at a critical time in New Hampshire's healthcare landscape. Pam DiNapoli, Executive Director of the NH Nurses Association, shares that several key elements are coming into play this year that can have long-lasting impact on making hospitals safer for both staff and patients. Among these is the implementation of initiatives outlined in SB459, such as the statewide Healthcare for Patient Safety Commission and hospital violence prevention programs. As a part of this process, the NHHVP is looking to continue the expansion of the initial consortium group that has dedicated itself to making NH's emergency departments safer for everyone. Media inquiries, as well as hospitals interested in joining the consortium, should contact Pam DiNapoli.

- Dr. Karla Armenti, Director of NH OHSP

Download the report