UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Does the Type of Exposure to Workplace Violence Matter to Nurses’ Mental Health? Havaei, Farinaz


Workplace violence is a prevalent phenomenon in healthcare, particularly among nursing professionals. Exposure to workplace violence may be direct through firsthand involvement, indirect through secondhand witnessing, or both. Even though implications for victims of workplace violence have been well-studied, less is known about the various types of exposure and their effects on nurse mental health. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of workplace-violence exposure types on the mental health of nurses, while accounting for the intensity of the incident/s. This study employs an exploratory correlational design with survey methods. Nurses from British Columbia (BC), Canada, were invited by the provincial nurses’ union to complete an electronic survey in Fall 2019. A total of 2958 responses from direct-care nurses in acute-care settings were analyzed using logistic regression. The results showed that mental-health problems increased with cumulative exposure; even though nurses with solely indirect exposure to workplace violence did not report greater mental-health problems, those experiencing solely direct exposure, or both direct and indirect exposure, were two to four times more likely to report high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and burnout compared to their counterparts with no exposure. There is an urgent need for better mental-health support, prevention policies and practices that take into account the type of workplace-violence exposure.

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