Violence and Injury Prevention

Violence against health workers

Health workers are at high risk of violence all over the world. Between 8% and 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. Many more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression. Most violence is perpetrated by patients and visitors. Also in disaster and conflict situations, health workers may become the targets of collective or political violence. Categories of health workers most at risk include nurses and other staff directly involved in patient care, emergency room staff and paramedics.

Violence against health workers is unacceptable. It has not only a negative impact on the psychological and physical well-being of health-care staff, but also affects their job motivation. As a consequence, this violence compromises the quality of care and puts health-care provision at risk. It also leads to immense financial loss in the health sector.

Interventions to prevent violence against health workers in non-emergency settings focus on strategies to better manage violent patients and high-risk visitors. Interventions for emergency settings focus on ensuring the physical security of health-care facilities. More research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these programmes, in particular in low-resource settings.

WHO, ILO, ICN and PSI jointly developed Framework guidelines for addressing workplace violence in the health sector to support the development of violence prevention policies in non-emergency settings, as well as a questionnaire and study protocol to research the magnitude and consequences of violence in such settings. For emergency settings, WHO has also developed methods to systematically collect data on attacks on health facilities, health workers and patients.

Framework guidelines

Country case studies

Research instruments

Working papers