Workplace Violence Against Nurses: Challenges and Solutions for Europe

Publication Name

Policy, Politics, and Nursing Practice


We report the results of a mapping exercise by the European Federation of Nurses (EFN) on challenges and solutions related to violence against nurses. This is an issue of growing international concern, with the problem accentuated during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a cross-sectional observational design, an online questionnaire was distributed among 35 national nurses’ associations across Europe in March 2021. Face validity was achieved through an expert panel. Descriptive statistics were used for data analysis, including counts, percentages, and tabulation. Qualitative data analysis followed thematic synthesis techniques. Three main findings are noted. First, violent incidents against nurses are under-reported due to fear of victimization, employer discouragement, and the perception that reporting will not make any difference. Second, perpetrators of violent acts extend beyond patients and families to include health professionals of different ranks. Third, violent incidences have a significant adverse effect on nurses’ health and retention, leading to nurses reducing their working hours or opting for part-time work. Violence against nurses is an expression of a broader problem that is rooted in the failure to recognize and manage violence at the level of the healthcare organization, and the absence of appropriate legislation to maintain minimum standards of safe working environments. This is partly the result of inadequate European Union-wide legislation targeting workplace violence in the health professions. Nurses need more institutional support through dedicated funding aimed at targeted interventions, more legislative commitment to ratify policies against discrimination, and an opportunity to voice the needs to the appropriate policymakers with the ability to bring significant change to existing conditions. Given the severity of the situation, inaction could lead to irreplaceable damage to the nursing workforce, compounding pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, this situation can further drive existing nurses out of the profession, weakening health systems worldwide.

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