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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Workplace violence against registered nurses: an interpretive description van Wiltenburg, Shannon Leigh


Health personnel, especially nurses, are often victims of workplace violence. Unfortunately, little is known about the nurses' experience of violence. A research study was initiated to further explore the nurses' accounts of workplace violence so as to make dimensions of the nurses' experience visible and more fully understood. Interpretive description was the research methodology adopted for this study. Using theoretical sampling, ten Registered Nurses from the lower mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia participated in semi structured, audiotaped interviews. In this research, the nurses' experience of workplace violence emerged as a highly complex entity, deeply embedded in relationships and context. How nurses perceive the contextual factors of the organization, their immediate work environment and their individual attributes were found to play a significant role in how they respond to the phenomenon. The findings of this study suggest that organizational culture is an important determinant in managing workplace violence and that policy and administrative personnel play a pivotal role in influencing the problem. Nursing culture also influences the nurses' expectations, assumptions and actions towards violence. Participants voiced that role conflict often challenged their ability to enact acquired professional ideals and that that they routinely undertake roles in dealing with violence that are not appropriate to their level of knowledge or skill. Within the nurses' immediate work environment, bullying as well as physical and verbal abuse was commonplace. Overcrowding, long waits for service, poor environmental design and inadequate staff to patient ratios were seen as factors that increased nurses' risk. Individual factors were associated with emotional and psychological harms that nurses endured. Workplace violence affected self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy and the nurses' sense of control. Moral distress, self-blame, feelings of failure, loss of motivation and leaving the nursing profession were significant findings. The results of this study demonstrate a need to re-think how we can address workplace violence in nursing. Research and intervention is needed to further explore organizational policy and governing structures, the culture and climate of practice environments, and the fundamental role nursing education programs have in preparing nurses to manage workplace violence.

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