Workplace violence in the emergency department: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Public Health






Emergency department; Healthcare workers; Instigator; Workplace violence


© 2021 The Royal Society for Public Health Objectives: Emergency departments (EDs) currently face a widely acknowledged issue of workplace violence (WPV) against healthcare workers (HCWs). WPV in the ED occurs in different forms and from different types of instigators; its prevalence also varies in different regions of the world. This study investigates the incidence of WPV among ED staff and identifies the types of instigators involved. Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Methods: Using PubMed and SCOPUS databases, a search for WPV against ED physicians and nurses was conducted, yielding 301 articles. Studies were excluded if measuring violence between HCWs or against prehospital personnel. Studies assessing WPV not in the ED, such as domestic violence that occurred before arrival to the ED, and studies investigating violence involving alcohol/drug use or individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis were also excluded. This study used a random-effects meta-analysis to examine the prevalence of WPV in the ED, including types of violence, instigators, and professions of the victims. Results: In total, 26 articles were selected for this study. There were 9072 cases of WPV in the ED; 6575 (72%) cases involved verbal violence and 1639 (18%) related to physical abuse. Among the ED workers involved, 2112 (36.5%) were physicians, 3225 (55.7%) were nurses and 455 (7.8%) other ED staff. There were 2578 instigators, of whom 1340 (52%) were family members, 700 (27%) were patients and 538 (21%) were other relatives/friends. The overall prevalence of verbal violence was 0.77 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.72–0.82, I2 = 87%), suggesting 77% of ED staff reported exposure to WPV. The prevalence of violence from patients as instigators was 0.24 (95% CI: 0.18–31, I2 = 93%). Conclusions: WPV in the ED is a serious issue as most nurses and physicians are significantly exposed to verbal and/or physical abuse. Further studies should focus on factors influencing the different types of WPV, which ED professions are most at risk and interventions to prevent WPV in the ED.

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