How Nurses Can Defend Themselves Against Workplace Violence

The first question you have to ask yourself is: What is Workplace Violence?

“In legal terms violence means and includes activity such as the forcible, pysical, fraudulent, criminal, knowingly wrongful, discriminatory, retaliatory, illegal, violations of public policy, and unlawful termination, firing or any other false pretext for ending your employment”. From the book  “Defending Your Employee Rights”, The Black’s Law, American College, and Random House dictionaries along with the court citations below* define VIOLENCE as:

” unjust (illegal) or unwarranted exercise of force or power, usually with accompaniment of vehemence, outrage, or fury.” “Violence in the workplace is not limited to physical contact or injury, but may include… false statements, publicity, and veiled threats, by words and acts. Harassment is another form of work place violence and is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such a person and serves no legitimate purpose.”

Workplace violence and abuse by the employer, a manager, supervisor, or co-worker is not much different than DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. It is not to be accepted or tolerated and you are legally protected from it.

Workplace Violence is an abuse of POWER and CONTROL and it can involve:

Psychological and Emotional Abuse

Name calling

Humiliation in public

Claims that remarks were in jest

Lies that they were never said

Threats and Intimidation

Keeping you in a state of fear or anxiety

Tracking your every move

Threatening physical harm

Threatening death

Sexual assault and coercion

Comments with sexual overtones

Exhibiting sexual material

Unwanted touching

Pressure to date

Soliciting Sex for hiring or for promotion

Some common forms and acts of violence and harassment at the workplace:

You are given a new assignment that does not use the skills you have and told that you don’t know how to do your job.

Your boss threatens to fire you for no good reason at all.

You colleague makes comments with sexual overtones or are pressured to date them

Your superior makes hostile or intimidating comments.

You are terminated under some false pretense if you protest.

You are physically assaulted at your workplace (a hand is laid on you)


What do you do about it?

In the WORKPLACE some very special situtaions arise such as the employer is liable if they know or are aware of such violence or there is any history of such violence and the employer fails to act in a manner that will eliminate violence and the danger associated with it then they become liable for ANY injury.


NOTE: You must know how to report, recognize and document it in the event you are a victim.


Employers may be sued into the millions of naira from assaults resulting in injuries to employees. If you feel threatened, were threatened, slapped, punched, pushed to the wall, document it by gathering all the evidence and witnesses and then report it to police to protect yourself.




There is unfortunately a mind set that will request that only an apology be given and the victim pressured to accept and keep quite so as to retain their jobs because the management of that facility do not wish to deal with it. Always report to police any threat of injury  so to protect yourself and to document it .


Tell your family and friends to protect yourself from any future denial. There is no need for anyone to work under the threat of injury or death. Your employer must protect you but they can only do so if you inform them. You must inform them. Understand the law. Contact the Police and Consult an attorney if you are a victim of this type of violence. Do not tolerate it!


Yes, I am a Victim of Work Place Violence – What can I do?

Here are some tips on protecting yourself from workplace violence.


1. Never work alone if you feel uncomfortable around a patient/colleague/superior. While you might commonly have some shifts alone you should never be around them if he or she seems unstable or you feel uneasy. Trust your intuition. It’s never a bad idea to ask another nurse or even a security guard, if one is available, to accompany you.


2. Identify and flag. If you are working with someone with a history of violence — flag the individual so you and others can take precautions when interracting with them, never hide this from other potential victims.


3. Advocate for safety measures both inside and outside the hospital by addressing safety concerns you have, but you should always speak to your supervisor or a hospital administrator about things that make you feel unsafe at work. Remember always keep your own records on any of these requests


4. Try to carry a panic device with you in case of emergencies. Some hospitals do not allow nurses to carry cell phones in their pockets during their shifts. If this is the case at your facility, keep a device in your pocket to protect yourself so you’re prepared for emergencies.


5. Make sure your coworkers are trained to cope with both physical and verbal abuse. Victims of hospital violence are most often newly hired nurses, so help them prepare by teaching them to look for warning signs, ask for help if they feel unsafe and report any violent or suspicious behavior to a supervisor.


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