VHHA Statement on Violence Against Health Care Providers, Ongoing Efforts to Enhance Workplace Safety

June 8, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) today issued the following statement regarding recent episodes of violence impacting hospitals and health care providers who face heightened risk for being victims of workplace violence, as well as ongoing workplace safety initiatives being led by hospitals.

“During the first week of June, two hospitals have been the site of horrific violence committed against health care professionals. A shooting on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK tragically claimed the lives of two physicians, a support staff team member, and a patient. Days later, a physician and two nurses were stabbed at Encino Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. Hospitals and other health care settings that people look to as spaces for healing should never be places where violent acts are committed.

“Unfortunately, hospitals and the people who work in them live with the daily reality that health care professionals face an elevated risk of being victims of workplace violence. Of the nearly 21,000 private sector workers who ‘experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2019,’ 70 percent worked in the health care and social assistance sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data from the agency further shows that instances of workplace violence in health care have been on the rise since 2011. A 2021 study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that ‘78 percent of all health care workers experienced a violent assault in the prior 12 months, including more than one in five (22 percent) emergency physician residents. Eighty-nine percent of residents experienced verbal assault by a patient in the prior 12 months, compared to 80 percent of other health care workers.’ This year, a survey conducted by Incredible Health found that 65 percent of ‘nurses surveyed reported that they had been verbally or physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member within the last year.’

“As troubling as these figures are, they may underestimate the threat health care workers face. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) notes that while health care ‘accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined . . . many more assaults or threats go unreported.’ The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to amplify the risk of workplace violence directed at health care professionals. Findings published in the March 2022 edition of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine that are based on the experience of staff at an academic emergency department in the Midwestern U.S., found that instances of verbal abuse towards hospital staff rose along with ‘an increase in overall violent workplace incidents during the pandemic… compared to the three months prior…as well as compared to the previous year.’

“In response to these conditions, hospitals across Virginia have implemented a range of safety and prevention programs for staff including alerting systems, safety protocols, enhanced security personnel presence, and more to protect patients, family, visitors, and staff. Virginia hospitals, Virginia nurses, and other health care partners successfully worked with the Virginia General Assembly in 2019 to strengthen protections for health care workers performing their job by making it a class 1 misdemeanor to threaten to kill or harm them while they are rendering care in a hospital, emergency department, or other clinical facility.

“In March 2020, VHHA launched a Workplace Safety Task Force charged with determining a baseline measurement for statewide employee injuries, identifying and monitoring potential opportunities for improvement, and establishing best practice recommendations. The ongoing Task Force work includes a dedicated subgroup focused on workplace violence. During April of 2022 in recognition of National Workplace Violence Awareness Month, VHHA shared with its members a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Toolkit with information about applicable state laws, background information on the topic, and detailed guidelines to support organizations in developing, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining workplace violence prevention programs.

“This month, VHHA is hosting a Workplace Violence Program Webinar on June 16 from noon-1 p.m. featuring presentations from representatives at two Virginia health systems (UVA Health and VCU Health) about the structure of workplace violence reduction programs they have implemented at those organizations to support and protect employees. And later this year, an in-person Task Force workshop focused on building safer work environments will be held by the Association. Each of these examples are part of continuing efforts by Virginia hospitals and health systems to keep hospitals safe places of health and healing for all who visit them.”

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 25 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


Julian Walker
Vice President of Communications
(804) 297-3193 office
(804) 304-7402 mobile