How to Prevent Workplace Violence in Nursing


Workplace violence is a significant concern for nurses across the globe. Nurses often find themselves at risk of encountering violence in the workplace. Fortunately, there are proactive measures that nurses can take to mitigate these risks. The keys to reducing violence are understanding the early warning signs of violence and having an effective de-escalation protocol.

Recognize Early Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

One of the first steps in mitigating workplace violence is recognizing the early warning signs that someone may become violent. These signs can vary from verbal aggression and physical agitation to intense emotions and threats. As frontline caregivers, nurses must be vigilant and attuned to changes in behavior that may indicate escalating tension or aggression in patients or visitors.

  • Verbal Threats: Expressions of anger, frustration, or hostility directed towards others, including threatening language or aggressive verbal outbursts.
  • Physical Signs: Clenched fists, aggressive posturing, pacing, or an inability to sit still.
  • Intense Emotional Reactions: Crying, screaming, or yelling, disproportionate to the situation.
  • Increased Irritability: Patients may become easily irritated or provoked by minor frustrations or perceived slights.
  • Changes in Speech Patterns: Rapid or pressured speech, loud or escalating voice tone, or use of profanity can indicate escalating agitation.
  • Paranoia or Suspiciousness: Patients may express paranoid beliefs or exhibit suspicious behavior, such as accusing others of plotting against them or being overly mistrustful.
  • Physical Restlessness: Patients may exhibit pacing, , or other signs of physical restlessness and agitation.
  • Noncompliance with Treatment: Refusal to comply with treatment or take medication, removal of iv’s, sensors, probes. 

Use De-escalation Techniques

De-escalation techniques are strategies used to defuse tense or potentially volatile situations in order to prevent escalation and promote calm and constructive communication. These techniques are valuable in various contexts, including healthcare settings where nurses often encounter patients or family members who may be distressed, agitated, or aggressive. Here are some common de-escalation techniques and how a nurse might use them:

  • Active Listening: Nurses can use active listening to demonstrate empathy and understanding towards the patient’s concerns or frustrations. This involves giving the person their full attention, maintaining eye contact, and paraphrasing their statements to show that their feelings are being acknowledged and respected.
  • Remain Calm and Composed: Nurses should strive to maintain a calm and composed demeanor, even in challenging situations. This can help to diffuse tension and reassure the patient that their concerns are being taken seriously.
  • Establish Rapport: Building a rapport with the patient can help to establish trust and facilitate communication. Nurses can do this by introducing themselves, addressing the patient by their preferred name, and showing genuine interest in their well-being.
  • Use Verbal De-escalation Techniques: Verbal de-escalation techniques involve using calm and non-confrontational language to redirect the conversation and diffuse tension. This may include speaking in a soft and soothing tone, using phrases such as “I understand” or “Let’s work together to find a solution,” and avoiding language that may be perceived as judgmental or confrontational.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: Nurses should set clear and consistent boundaries with patients to maintain safety and respect. This may involve calmly but firmly informing the patient of acceptable behavior and consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Offer Choices and Empowerment: Providing patients with choices and involving them in decision-making can help to empower them and reduce feelings of frustration or powerlessness. Nurses can offer choices in aspects of their care, such as medication options or activities.
  • Use Nonverbal Communication: Nonverbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions, can also play a role in de-escalation. Nurses should maintain open and relaxed body language, avoid crossing their arms or appearing tense, and use gentle gestures to convey empathy and understanding.

Once early warning signs are recognized, it is essential for nurses to follow a well designed de-escalation protocol. De-escalation involves using communication and conflict resolution strategies to calm the individual and reduce the risk of violence. This can include techniques such as active listening, maintaining a calm demeanor, and setting clear boundaries. 

Call for Additional Help

While de-escalation techniques are vital for managing potentially volatile situations, the ability to call for additional help is equally crucial to ensure safety in the workplace. Leveraging technology, such as de-escalation buttons, can significantly enhance the effectiveness of these safety measures in healthcare settings. When a situation escalates beyond a nurse’s ability to manage, summoning additional help from colleagues or security personnel becomes essential.

Additional help provides both practical assistance and emotional support, which is important since de-escalating a situation can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Extra personnel bring different skills and perspectives, offering valuable insights and solutions that might not be apparent to those directly involved. Moreover, the presence of more people can prevent further escalation by showing that the issue is being taken seriously and that sufficient resources are available to address it effectively. In some cases, additional help might be necessary to contain the situation, particularly if it involves a large group or poses a risk of spreading or affecting others nearby. 

De-escalation Technology

Many healthcare facilities are now equipped with de-escalation buttons that allow staff to summon help to their exact location in the event of a crisis. By pressing a de-escalation button, nurses can quickly alert security or other staff members to intervene and assist in resolving the situation peacefully. These buttons provide an immediate and effective means of communication, ensuring that help is always accessible when needed. Integrating such technology into the workplace not only enhances the safety of healthcare professionals but also ensures a more secure and supportive environment for both staff and patients.

Pinpoint offers advanced de-escalation and panic button solutions that are designed to protect healthcare workers discreetly and efficiently. Our technology ensures that help is always just a button press away, without the need for continuous tracking. This fosters a safer working environment, significantly reducing the psychological toll of workplace violence on healthcare professionals. Protect your healthcare staff with Pinpoint’s innovative safety solutions. Learn more and request a demo with Pinpoint